We live in a beautiful, green part of the country, so why not embrace the local environment. Imagine stepping into your backyard and hearing the sounds of Pacific Northwest birds, seeing the blooms on your flowering dogwood, and enjoying the shade of other native trees. And imagine having a healthier yard that contributes positively to your neighborhood.
Or maybe you have a wonderful space that you’ve been cultivating for years and want to take it to the next level.
If you’re looking to start a great outdoor project this year, consider applying for the Backyard Habitat Certification Program. This is an initiative that encourages the planting of native trees and reduction of invasive species. In 2018 alone the program assessed and gave certification to 272 new yards. Almost 75,000 total native trees and shrubs have been planted in the program’s history, with nearly 12,000 planted last year. That’s a lot of positive environmental growth, just in Portland backyards.
This year, could you be added to this number?
Why Native Trees Are Important
If you go to your local big box store, chances are you’ll find a lot of plants on sale that aren’t native. While these plants may contribute to a good-looking lawn, they may not be so good for the environment.
A variety of things affect a tree’s growth and health. Every species has different needs when it comes to optimal precipitation amounts, temperature, and soil composition. Unfortunately, if a species’ ideal climate is very different from that of the Pacific Northwest, it can mean that you have to compensate for these differences.
Fertilizing. Using pesticides. Not overwatering or underwatering. Watching for health problems. It can be a lot of work.
Not to mention, certain non-native species are even considered invasive and grow too well in your yard. While services like Mr. Tree can certainly help you remove problem trees from your yard, we would rather help you maintain your healthy trees so you can enjoy them stress-free.
Fortunately, trees originally from the Pacific Northwest are well-suited to our unique climate, weather, and soil. They won’t have as many problems and will be lower maintenance than non-native species. That’s good news for you, as it means they won’t take as much work once they’re established in your yard.
If you’re looking to add a new tree or two on your property, work with the environment rather than against it by choosing native trees.
What Native Trees Do for the Environment
As people who work with trees every day we’re biased, but we think that trees are a beneficial part of any yard. They add beauty year-round and provide you and your home with shade, keeping you cool in the summer. They even help conserve water.
Any tree can give you these benefits. But did you know that native trees are also important because they can help encourage biodiversity?
Native insects are more attracted to native plants than non-native ones. These insects go on to pollinate native flowers, as well as provide food for native birds. These birds also frequent native trees, catching food and nesting in their branches.
Urbanization has taken away a lot of the forest habitat that used to be here, replacing it with green lawns that don’t offer as much support to wildlife. But through planting native trees, you can start turning your backyard into a little patch of habitat for a variety of native species to thrive in.
What is Backyard Habitat Certification?
Getting started on your path to earning the Backyard Habitat Certification is easy. There is a one-time $35 application fee that gives you access to resources to help you grow your yard. You’ll even get great discounts to a variety of nurseries that sell native plants.
After applying, a backyard habitat technician visits your yard and helps you assess what you’re working with. They will then make recommendations based on your goals and what would work well with what you already have.
On top of planting more native species, there are other criteria that need to be met for your yard to be certified. You’ll need to eliminate invasive species and reduce your use of pesticides.
You’ll also need to take steps to manage your property’s stormwater more effectively (such as decreasing water runoff on your property).
In addition, you’ll work to create a more hospitable environment for wildlife (such as keeping pet cats indoors or adding features like birdhouses).
There are three different certification levels possible: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. But don’t think you have to achieve the perfect wilderness paradise right away. You can grow your yard at your own pace, seeing what works best for you. While it certainly will take effort on your part, this should be fun and is a great way to learn more about plants through the process.
Once you have a plan, earning a certification is well within your reach. For instance, to become certified at the Silver level, at least 5 percent of the vegetation in your yard needs to be native plants. Even just planting a few native trees is a great start toward that goal.
Once all the criteria have been met, you can contact the program again for another site visit. And if your yard is certified, you’ll get a sign to proudly display. Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy all the benefits of your new landscaping—birdsongs, the beauty of native plants, and the shade of your new trees. You can also work your way to earning a higher certification level.
Taking on a long-term project like this is a lot of work, but remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Along with the volunteers with the Backyard Habitat Certification Program, professional arborists such as Mr. Tree are also a great resource. If you have any questions or concerns along the way, we are here with answers. We can support your landscaping projects and goals and want your yard to be the best it can be.