Sunday, Sep 25, 2016
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Kelly Heidbreder

COMMENTARY

How to get your back yard recognized by National Wildlife Federation

Doug Bahnsen loves nature and he loves having its critters visit his back yard. He and his wife, Mary, have created many nooks and crannies around their property to make birds, bees, and bunnies feel right at home.

"Our backyard pond is the main focus of the landscape," Mr. Bahnsen said. "It has over 70 fish and lots of water plants." Mary is his gardening partner and "knows all the names of the plants and really likes perennials."

"My husband does whatever he can to cooperate with nature. We don't use chemicals on our property and are proud of that," Mrs. Bahnsen said. "I just like to see things grow and you get more bang for you buck with perennials. It might take a few years before they really take off, but they are worth it. We always try to pick plants that will invite butterflies, or create a home for others."

A big surprise

Mary is so proud of her husband's pond and other nests around the yard, she registered it as an official Wildlife Habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation.

"I really wanted to surprise him for his birthday, so I did some research. To be considered for the Wildlife Habitat Certification, you have to have nest areas, nesting boxes, brush piles, compost piles, and habitats like that. I also had to list plants and trees on your property. It was a lot of work."

"You have to provide food, water, and shelter and breeding areas for wildlife," he said. "Our yard is about 20 by 40 feet. We leave one area unkept and it is in a hidden spot in our area that provides shelter for rabbits, birds, and other animals. The rest of the yard is filled with perennials and trees."

Coreopsis, sedum, black eye Susans, verbena, phlox, aster, roses, butterfly bushes, clematis, trumpet vines, daylilies, callas, and hosta, are a few of the plants around the yard. They also have hackberry, pear, and mulberry trees.

The Bahnsens have nine bird feeders around their landscape and select plants based on their ability to also help them feed birds. "I don't cut them back just so their seeds will be able to feed the birds," she said. "We have dozens of different kinds of birds that visit. I even saw a father goldfinch feeding his babies from the coneflower in the yard,. We have a hawk, nut hatches, lots of gold finches, orioles, and hummingbirds that stop by."

Other critters like to call their back yard home, like chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons, and opossum. "We live just a couple blocks away from downtown Perrysburg, but you would never know that because our yard feels like we are surrounded by woods," Mr. Bahnsen said.

If you would like to certify your back yard with the National Wildlife Federation, check out their Web site at nwf.org/certifiedwildlifehabitat.

"This was such a great surprise," he said. "My wife put a lot of work into this and I am really proud of her for that."

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.

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