By planting native species, homeowners can provide a habitat for wildlife, birds and bees—and help save the planet
Ways to make your yard more eco-friendly
• Reduce the lawn area and add native plants. “Lawn is a dead zone,” entomologist and author Doug Tallamy says. Using native plants also reduces or eliminates the need for fertilizers, pesticides and watering.
• Stop or minimize the use of pesticides, which can kill insects indiscriminately, including pollinators and the insects that birds eat. To control mosquitos, Tallamy recommends trapping them during their larval stage. You can do that in your yard by putting some straw in a bucket of water and then adding a mosquito dunk (a small disc sold at garden centers that kills only mosquito larvae). “Mosquitos will find that an irresistible place to lay eggs—and you have stopped mosquito reproduction in your yard,” he says. Spraying soapy water on plant leaves is often a safe and effective solution for many pests, such as aphids and mites.
• Turn off outdoor lights or use motion detectors and yellow bulbs instead of white to boost the moth population. Many moths don’t eat as adults and have a limited energy supply. If they’re flying around a bulb (they’re more attracted to white than yellow), they’re not mating and laying eggs.
• Leave leaf litter under your bushes and borders in the fall “to support insect communities that are the base of the food chain for birds and other wildlife,” says Alison Pearce of the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase. Insects shelter, overwinter and reproduce there.
• Cut invasive ivy off trees and remove other invasive plants. Ivy can steal sunlight and nutrients from trees, attract fungus, and cause mature trees or branches to fall in storms because they’re heavier, according to the Rock Creek Conservancy in Bethesda.
• Put bells on cats that spend time outdoors. Outdoor cats (mostly feral) kill between 1.3 billion and 4 billion birds annually in the U.S., according to a 2013 study in the journal Nature.