Great Resources

Useful tools to help you improve the health of your landscape

The Woods in Your Backyard

Wooded areas are not only beautiful, but they can be ecological wonderlands filled with life. Whether you have a wooded area or want to establish one, pick up a copy of the book: The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home.

Improving Environmental Quality

Published by the Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service (NRAES), this useful guide was written by a talented team led by Jonathan Kays, an Extension Specialist in natural resources from Maryland. In the authors’ words, this 138 page book “promotes the stewardship of small parcels of land for personal enjoyment and improved environmental quality.”

By following the case study of the Nelson family, you learn the steps needed to identify and achieve your goals. A workbook section enables you to then establish an action plan.

Denoting Areas for Improvement

The first step is to segment your property according to types of use: 1) intensive use areas like buildings, decks, patios, walkways, etc., 2) intermediate use areas such as lawns and semi-natural areas and 3) natural areas including wooded sections, shrubby areas, water features, etc. The authors make the case that the intermediate-use areas, like lawns, are labor intensive and of little to no use to wildlife. Those areas are ripe for ecological improvement in any landscape.

The book then guides you through the process of inventorying your property and the plants within it.   It even suggests conducting a survey of broken and dead trees – valuable to wildlife and to the soil, explain the authors.

Ecological Principles

A section on ecological principles explains plant succession, water resources and wildlife ecology for small properties.  The goals of providing food, cover, nesting sites, water and space (home range) are all discussed. An appendix specifies the habitat requirements of various common species.

Adding brush piles, dense thickets, and soft edges (gradual transitions from one plant community to another), keeping tree snags and including mast trees, are all ways in which landowners can increase the wildlife value of their property.

Putting It All Together

The book helps you put all this new knowledge into practice, providing details on land management techniques, whether you want to remove invasive species, improve forest regeneration or increase wildlife diversity and improve your ecosystem. The last section of  The Woods in Your Backyard is a workbook that enables you to create a basic land management plan.

Pick up a copy and watch your landscape transform into an EcoBeneficial oasis!

From Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!