Secrets to a Healthy Backyard

Part of my backyard, which I love!
Part of my backyard, which I love! | Source

My Idea of a Healthy Yard

To me a healthy yard is one that helps you make a relaxing and healing connection with nature. It should be comfortable and easy, and not evoke feelings of guilt, tension or regret.

I have seen backyards filled with trash or discarded items, overgrown bushes and chest-high weeds. There’s usually an old rusty chair or two that have seen better days, if there is a place to sit at all. Procrastination and neglect often result in tasks that become too overwhelming to tackle.

Your Outdoor Space Is Just as Important as the Inside of Your House

It’s important to become a steward of the outdoor space in which you live. By that I mean, take an interest in every nook and cranny of your yard; including the vegetation, lawn, outbuildings, gardens, walkways, rocks and furniture. The size does not matter, it is how you treat the area that counts. Remember that anything you do, or don’t do, in your space affects the micro-ecosystems that surround you.

Trees provide nesting sites, food and shelter for animals and birds; filter pollutants and afford shade from the hot sun.
Trees provide nesting sites, food and shelter for animals and birds; filter pollutants and afford shade from the hot sun. | Source

For example, you decide to cut down a tree to make room for a vegetable garden. Then consider this--that tree provides shelter and nesting opportunities for birds, squirrels, chipmunks and other critters. It is a nursery for insects, and provides food for those bugs. It is a resource for animals that chew on bark or use the tree fibers for their nests.

The leaves of that tree filter pollutants and protect nesting birds from being seen by predators like hawks. Its shade creates a specialized mini-environment, and its branches pass along cooling breezes in the summertime. The bark on that tree is home to spiders, and other insects, which in turn provide sustenance for insect-eating birds and wild animals.

One of many squirrels that share their habitat with us.
One of many squirrels that share their habitat with us. | Source

Everything is interconnected and interdependent. Look at your outer space and acknowledge it as an unexplored universe. We humans can make huge impacts on wildlife without even realizing it. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make changes in your own backyard. It’s your space, but remember you must share it with wildlife in order to have a ‘healthy yard‘. We all have an inherent moral obligation to care for this planet and all its creatures.

So if you do cut down that tree, you need to make sure that you replace it with other kinds of food and sheltering opportunities. Install a bird house or two; add bird feeders; plant a mixed hedge or multilayered flower gardens filled with native plants that produce both nectar and seed heads. Plant some raspberries or grapes next to your fence or against a trellis.

Add to the native plants; and layer with different shrubs and plantings for variety--create wildlife magnets!
Add to the native plants; and layer with different shrubs and plantings for variety--create wildlife magnets! | Source

Start thinking in terms of how you can make your backyard better for nature as well as yourself and your family. Instead of using toxic chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that negatively impact the health of your family and your environment, look for non-toxic alternatives to ensure a safer and healthier yard. Remember that any action has an equal and opposite reaction.

The Secrets to a Healthy Yard

  • Install a Bat House. These sonic-sensitive wonders of nature are tiny flying rodents that have a penchant for eating all the insects their bellies can hold! Bats are nothing to fear. On the contrary, they are to be applauded and employed as free labor in our yards and gardens.

Added Bonus: Bats can ingest many, many mosquitoes in just one night!

Stacked stone wall/planter I made for a new hydrangea plant.
Stacked stone wall/planter I made for a new hydrangea plant. | Source
  • Build a stacked rock wall that will provide lots of places for insects and small animals to hide and multiply, maintaining that important food source for your native birds and wildlife. Your rock wall doesn’t have to be large, just interesting and useful.

  • Start a brush pile to harbor insects and shelter birds. Mulch your gardens and shrubs with shredded dry leaves to supply lots of places for bugs to hide, and your ground-foraging birds to find.

Brush piles have lots of places for birds to hunt insects; and to shelter from storms; and to find nesting materials.
Brush piles have lots of places for birds to hunt insects; and to shelter from storms; and to find nesting materials. | Source
Columbines are hummingbird, butterfly and bee magnets.
Columbines are hummingbird, butterfly and bee magnets. | Source
  • Plant a vegetable or flower garden. Your vegetable garden will need pollinators. Plants that offer food, shelter and places for larvae to hatch should be on your list of necessities. Bees, butterflies and birds depend on nectar and seeds. In turn they will pollinate your vegetables and flowers for you. Find a list of plants that attract birds here.

White clover is a low-growing lawn alternative that needs little mowing,  It also attracts lots of beneficial insects and bees that help pollinate lots of  vegetables and flowers.
White clover is a low-growing lawn alternative that needs little mowing, It also attracts lots of beneficial insects and bees that help pollinate lots of vegetables and flowers. | Source
  • Do you really like mowing all that lawn every time you get a day off? Try planting an alternative ‘lawn’. Red, white and strawberry clovers, low-growing tough herbs like thyme and chamomile, sweet alyssum, yarrow, violets and dwarf ryegrass mixtures are available online and at local nurseries.
  1. They only need to be mowed about once a month, or less often in hot weather.
  2. They are fragrant and lovely and tough enough to walk on.
  3. They don’t need any fertilizer once established.

  • Lay out a path of flat stones that winds around and through your lawn and gardens. Poke some moss or Mother of Thyme in between the stepping stones if you wish. Fill different sized planting containers with fragrant annuals and perennials and herbs, and place them along your walkway. Add a wonderful homemade bench or two for a cool spot to rest and contemplate your creation.

Stone pathway I made many years ago has stood the test of time.
Stone pathway I made many years ago has stood the test of time. | Source
  • There should be a clean water source in the form of a bird bath, fountain or small pond to quench the thirst of the wild critters in your little corner of the universe. Not enough room for a bird bath? There are lots of styles of hanging bird baths available online or at your local nursery.

If you already have a bird bath, consider a bubbler that mimics the sound of a babbling brook. It will be a magnet for birds; and it will have a relaxing effect on you!

Short Video of a Chickadee that Found Some Animal Fur in My Garden.

Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker | Source
Half bushel basket repurposed for mini salad garden.
Half bushel basket repurposed for mini salad garden. | Source

Create a beautiful outdoor ‘living’ room filled with fragrance, fresh air, sunshine and nature. Remember, it isn’t necessary to tackle this all in one big bite. Baby steps are the way to go.

  • List the projects that appeal to you and would work in your backyard.
  • Pick one, plan for it and shop the sales.
  • Finish one before you start another.
  • Be flexible. If you find a great idea that works well, use it.

Improvise with objects from rummage or estate sales. Or shop in your own house. You’d be surprised at what you can find right in your own home. It’s fun to re-use and repurpose. I know that I accumulate ‘stuff’ without even trying. Put some of that ‘stuff’ to good use in your backyard. Then sit back and watch your unique big screen nature-vision.

Be creative. If you need inspiration, walk through your own neighborhood, visit botanical gardens, local parks, or check out the many resources available online. Pinterest has thousands of creative options for repurposing items in the garden.

For instance, use your old shoes, boots, kitchen appliances, wash tubs, sinks, dishes, pans, watering cans, and so on. Virtually anything you have that can hold dirt, is water- and weatherproof, and will drain the excess water is fair game, and free! Other sources might be the local thrift shop, neighborhood garage sales and Freecycle online.

Do You Consider Wildlife When Relaxing in Your Backyard?

  • Yes, I love to listen to the birds and watch the butterflies in my garden.
  • Sometimes, but I don't seem to have the time to do much about it.
  • No, I don't often use my backyard.
See results without voting

These are the elements of a healthy lawn and wildlife environment.

Look at your backyard through the eyes of the animals that live,forage, and raise their young there. If you weren’t aware of them before, you should be now!

Young deer peeking through the trees at me!
Young deer peeking through the trees at me! | Source

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Do You Have a Relaxing Backyard? 20 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

What a great hub! I'm not kidding, this is like the Zen of Backyard Living. Well done my friend. We are well on our way to having the paradise you describe. Still a few things to add but I feel great in our backyard...it is a place of serenity and peace for us and the neighborhood creatures, and that makes me happy.

Have a great day after posting such a wonderful hub.

bill


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

Pearl, this hub exemplifies the way I 'garden'. My backyard is full of trees that have been here longer than my house. I have a bat house installed on a huge oak tree to help combat the man-sized mosquitoes we have in Florida. I use Mother Nature to act as fertilizer (compost) and weed deterrents (organic mulch) and bug deterrents (mulch makes a home for frogs who come out at night to eat the bugs that feed on the garden).

When my neighbor and I walk in the mornings, we pull wildflowers we find along the way (in the easements, not out of people's yards!) and transplant them to our gardens. It saves money and we know the plants/flowers will thrive because they already are.

I love the trees in my yard. They are the sole reason I bought my house. Mother Nature will have to tear them down because I wouldn't dream of it!

I've written several hubs about the very things of which you speak in this one. I've even created an outdoor living space that overlooks, but doesn't infringe upon, what naturally grows in my yard. The bird and animal population is awesome. So are the butterflies. Yesterday morning there was a huge mint green butterfly with a snowy white body on my back patio. Just when I was about to get my camera, it flew off. I'd never seen anthing like it before in my life. I sure hope it comes back!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I would love to tour this backyard. It is a natural way to enjoy the best of life. Great ideas for making our yards better living spaces for all creatures.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Why thank you Billy! I am so pleased you enjoyed this, as it was a labor of love. My backyard is like yours--easy and natural and peaceful. I just love it, and I can tell that you and Bev have produced a lovely and happy place to be, too. If you come out this way, I'd love to give you a tour of my 'North 40' (yards, not acres)! I'm glad we both have such 'healthy' backyards ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

bravewarrior, I know that you are a kindred spirit. We share so much in common! Do you know that I just dug up a bunch of coneflowers out of our loose gravel driveway--they thrive on harsh conditions. I transplanted them out back, of course! So when you described using wildflowers you have found on your walks, I knew we were two of a kind! You know how important it is to use native plants, especially wildflowers. I don't even mind weeds because I see the bees and birds enjoying them. So I just work around them.

If I come to Florida some day, I want to see your butterfly-bird and animal oasis! There, I've invited myself ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

teaches12345, I'm so glad you enjoyed this article. Any time you are in the Southern Tier of NYS, let me know and I'll give you a tour! I would love to show you my oasis ;) Pearl


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 3 years ago from Central Florida

Pearl, it's not quite an oasis. I have some weeding I need to do in the backyard, but it's full of critters! You're welcome anytime!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you bravewarrior! It would be fun to see your backyard--like I said, I don't have anything against weeds. They serve a purpose, too. You are very welcome here as well. Just give me a holler if you ever get to NYS ;) Pearl


BNadyn profile image

BNadyn 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida

What a useful article and so inspiring! We're in the process of moving and I plan to do more with our yard at the new place along with setting up bird feeders and do more gardening. Great tips, thanks for sharing =)


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

BNadyn, thank you! I enjoyed reading your comments. Moving can be stressful, but thinking about and planning for a new yard and gardens will be very exciting! I am so pleased you will be setting up bird feeders. Both you and your birds will really benefit. Just this morning there was a beautiful thrush in my yard. They are usually very hard to see, as they stay among the underbrush and dry leaves. But the distinctive call of 'EE-O-EE-O-LAY' brought my eyes right to its location under the bird bath near a huckleberry bush. That was a good way to start my day :) Pearl


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 3 years ago from Arizona

I am filled with awe and a bit of envy. We have only stones in the back yard..a long story. Nothing grows here in the desert and we rarely use our yard...Our view was taken away with a high fence. Loved the photos and you did a wonderful job. Voting up, pinning, and whatever else.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you Carol! I am sorry you have only stones. Have you ever heard of a Japanese stone garden? It is quite a 'zen' thing. They rake the stones in such a way as to make it look like a winding stream. You can add container plants full of colorful flowers.

I am always glad to see you, and your support means a lot to me. Thank you my friend ;) Pearl


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

As always Pearl you publish amazing hubs which keep me gripped all the way through. So interesting and I love this gem. Have a wonderful day my dear friend. Lots of love from my little corner of Wales.

Eddy.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Great article! You did a fine job on this item. There are so many great suggestions to make an animal friendly yard. We must also be careful not to use any poisons on the lawn.


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you so much Eddy! I do so love my backyard--it is alive with wildlife and flowers. To me that is the best kind of place to live. I know you and I are kindred spirits; we both love the wildlife, trees, flowers, earth, sky and everything in between! Your loyal support is so very much appreciated. I always enjoy your visits, my friend ;) Pearl


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thanks Deb! My backyard is my favorite place, especially this time of year when everything is finally green again! I have been hearing the little phoebes around, but haven't seen them yet. We used to have one that nested on the upper elbow of the eaves trough drainpipe. But they kept building on top of the old nests to the point of not being able to enter the nest any more! I used to enjoy hearing their 'phoebe, phoebe' calls all day long right next to the kitchen window. Have a great day! Connie


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

What a lovely and useful hub. Oh for a garden! lol! I have a balcony, so I try to make the most of the space, but this was awesome!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

Thank you Nell! I have seen your lovely balcony featured in a few of your hubs; you have definitely made the most of your space! That's what it's all about--make a haven where you live no matter what. If you can enter that space and feel a sense of relaxation, then you have created an oasis! I'm glad to see you as always ;) Pearl


vbchica14 profile image

vbchica14 3 years ago

Great info! I am in the process of looking for a house to purchase and when I do, I'll definitely be coming back here to look for ideas for the backyard!


grandmapearl profile image

grandmapearl 3 years ago from Southern Tier New York State Author

vbchica, best of luck on the house hunting. We built ours from scratch many years ago, but you know what--lots of things still aren't finished. If I had my druthers, I'd buy one already totally completed, but it would have to be in the woods! Thanks for stopping by ;)) Pearl

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