The tremendous population growth in Florida brought widespread destruction of our native habitats. In the Florida Keys, few large areas of natural habitats remain outside of state or federally-protected parks and refuges. Homeowners can help by creating a natural backyard, which will eliminate excess water and fertilizer use, and provide birds and other wildlife a much-needed oasis.
Here are a few tips to get your started:
- Re-establish plants along the water’s edge, such as mangroves and buttonwood, to provide sediment stabilization and runoff filtration. Minimally trim existing plants by the water.
- Remove invasive exotic species that crowd out native plants.
- Pick up pet waste regularly. Rain washes waste into the same waters we fish and swim in, creating water quality problems.
- Don’t fill in wetlands or areas with low wet spots. They provide valuable habitat.
- Plant native plants which are drought tolerant and do not require excess watering or fertilizer use.
- Leave dead trees and branches if possible. They provide critical bird nesting and foraging habitat.
- Group smaller native trees, shrubs and groundcovers around the taller trees to create an understory. Establish diverse heights and densities to satisfy the nesting and cover requirements of various animals.
- Avoid using pesticides that may kill birds and other wildlife. Research alternative pest control techniques.
- Learn Keys-specific landscaping tips and how to identify problematic invasive insect pests.
- Provide a fresh water source such as a birdbath. Change water daily to eliminate mosquito larvae.
- Visit Audubon at Home for additional ideas.
Tips were adapted from Protecting Paradise: 300 Ways to Protect Florida’s Environment, with permission from authors Margaret Spontak and Peggy Cavanaugh.