BEATRICE, Neb — Few things compare to the sound of birds singing while you relax on the deck with the sun shining on your face, but many homeowners don’t know how to make their yard a haven for local wildlife.

According to landscape designer, Doug Scott, of Redeem Your Ground in Atlanta, Georgia, it doesn’t matter whether you live in the city or country, the steps to creating inviting habitat are relatively easy to do. And while it may take a few years for the full beauty of your work to be realized, the long-term results will be well worth the effort.

“When you’re working to create a more natural backyard, it helps to start with a plan,” he said.

Scott has partnered with Exmark on a new “Done In A Weekend” video, Inviting Nature, which helps homeowners map out and implement an effective wildlife habitat plan for their yard.

“The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great new resource called Yard Map, which you can use to see what plants and habitats are best for your area,” Scott said. “Using the information it gives you will help you develop an overall wildlife habitat plan and choose the best, most logical progression of steps to implementing it in your yard.”

According to Scott, having a plan is also helpful in keeping projects manageable from cost and time investment standpoints.

“With your plan as a roadmap, you’ll be able to focus on the individual tasks, with less of a chance of feeling overwhelmed by the project as a whole,” he said.

Next, Scott says homeowners should designate a section of the yard to be used exclusively as a wildlife garden. Regardless of the amount of space available, it’s easy to find plans for creating a wildlife garden online.

“Even if the space you have is small, you can make it more inviting for birds, butterflies and other wildlife by incorporating planters filled with native plants and flowers,” Scott said.

Other things homeowners should consider when planning a wildlife garden include:

• Eliminate harmful weeds – Visit the USDA website to view the list of Introduced, Invasive and Noxious plants, and see which invasive species are common to your area. Whenever possible, Scott advises replacing invasive species with native plants, since they are almost always well suited to sustaining local wildlife.

• Replace grass areas – Since traditional turf grasses have very little nutritional or cover value for wildlife, Scott says replacing sections of turf with native or ornamental grasses will help bring nature closer.

• Support butterflies’ full life cycle – Scott says butterflies are easy to attract with nectar-rich plants, but it’s also important to support their full life cycle by planting host plants for eggs and caterpillar habitat.

• Reduce pesticide use – When the goal is to increase wildlife activity in your yard, Scott says it makes sense to reduce the number of pesticides you use.

Finally, Scott recommends engaging neighbors, family and friends in your plans to create a more inviting natural space for wildlife.

“By getting neighbors onto the same page with your plans, you increase the chances of them wanting to work with you toward common goals in their yard,” Scott said.

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