As summer arrives, and we are still practicing social distancing, many of us are looking for new and creative ways to engage with friends and family. Compounding this is the consideration that many of us are spending much more time at home, whether we are teleworking, furloughed, or on hiatus. This month, let’s take a closer look at an emerging trend which if fun, allows for social distancing, and gets us outdoors. Let us talk about, including our native fauna in our landscaping and gardening practices.

As you travel west on Route 50, you will notice that the highway’s median looks a little different this year than in years past. This is the result of a local effort to designate this area as a “No Mow” space. Why? I will give you a hint; Monarch Butterflies. This time of year, you will see tall, slender stalks of a sage- green plant adorned with oval-shaped leaves, and a crown of flowers. “Stemming” from the thick, milky sap that comes from the plant is commonly called milkweed. This native species is vital for the perpetuation of the life cycle of Monarch Butterflies, as it provides the nutrients required for Monarch caterpillars to transform into adult butterflies. Although Common Milkweed may be challenging to manage in a garden setting, Purple Milkweed is another excellent Monarch host plant, and very easy on the eyes. Milkweed is under serious threat due to the development of land, the widespread use of herbicides, and overly aggressive mowing.

I have noticed a shift in the mindset of some of my clients in that they are developing an interest in including native wildlife habitat into their landscaping plans. The effort is accomplished by either the judicious planting of native flora, allowing certain areas of their property to be “reclaimed” by natural processes, and conditioning other areas to target the fostering of specific fauna. In addition to helping with natural seeding of native plants, it is vital to the reproductive cycles of countless birds, pollinators, and mammals. As an added benefit, property owners are not investing as much time into manicuring every square foot of their property. The diversity of birds, bugs, and other wildlife that will soon come calling will undoubtedly provide hours of outdoor family-friendly education and entertainment. The addition of a beehive, birdhouses, and even a bat house into your “pocket meadow” will enrich the space even more.

For those readers who have water sources on their property, the fun extends even further. Making sure that ponds are clear of excessive weeds, are properly aerated, and also stocked with native aquatic species will deepen your outdoor experience. Regardless of whether you have one-quarter of an acre, or one hundred acres, including wildlife habitat, will surely provide you, your family, and your friends with immense enjoyment during these isolated times. Thank you for reading. I will see you in the field!!!