Downeast Audubon’s director, Leslie Clapp gave a tour of her extensive gardens to show ways that we may support wildlife in our yards, from the ground up to the canopy.
Grow less lawn.
See what you have by growing out your lawn, and work with it.
Plant a variety of plant species with a succession of bloom and fruit time.
Layering: think about planting layers of perennials, shrubs trees and a canopy.
Keep dead trees if they are in a safe place to stand.
Keep woody trimmings and use them by building wood and brush piles to provide cover for small shy birds; you can make them beautiful and attract sparrows finches and cardinals.
Growing thickets like rose or forsythia attract catbirds
Use mulch! Maintains moisture in the ground, holds back weeds and it breaks down every year. Nothing organic leaves the property. If the material is diseased or weedy, it goes to the back.
Put up windbreaks, especially in winter around feeders.
Provide birdhouses and feeders.
Keep clean water available, especially in drought conditions. This can be done in birdbaths or as a recirculating stream.
Plant native plants and maintain an open field meadow of perennials. Wildlife has evolved with native plants. Some people complain about native plants getting ‘buggy’, but this is good because the bugs feed the birds!
Make and use compost
Leave plants standing through the winter. Stop deadheading in mid September at the latest so the plants can produce seed to feed the birds.
Keep your cats indoors.
Mowing is necessary to keep an open field in Maine. Don’t mow in the summer! It takes food away from wildlife. Mow late, in November and alternate parts of the meadow so that there are sections left standing. Goldenrod gauls, for example, are good winter food for woodpeckers.
Vast expanses of lawn cropped short surrounds most homes in rural Maine. While it is a sought after aesthetic for many old timers, it is not a landscape that offers support for local wildlife. For pollinators, lawn is a vast desert with little in the way of food or shelter. In this windy place by the sea, it meant that we had few pollinators dwelling here. Known as the ‘Manor House’, the family who sold us the property practiced this common but ecologically disruptive way of landscaping. Not only does it lack protection for wildlife, it consumes quite a lot of gas to keep it maintained. We have focused on changing this method of working with the land to cultivate pollinator friendly spheres around our new home.
Grandpa has always prioritized his greenhouse, building them in urban settings as well as rural ones, and he even designed his dream-house as a casita wherein the greenhouse took up a third of the floorplan. Here we can see his first mark to disrupt the overwhelming expanse of lawn. Ultimately, a new foundation needed to be dug for the barn in order to save the structure. We trailed that dirt across the front of the property as a large berm which doubles as native plant garden and protection from road noise. After building the greenhouse, the lawn has been steadily shrinking as we build berms, sink hugelcultures and roto-till swaths of grass to explore various methods of meadow restoration and cultivation of nourishment by the sea.