From Yard to Natural Habitat

Here’s How We Did It! by Sarah and David Stokes

When my husband, David, and I moved to Hales Corners in 2017, our yard consisted of a green grass lawn and several trees. We are both environmentalists and knew that a natural yard was in our future, but were not sure how to get started.

Fortunately, we had three wonderful resources available to us: the Wild Ones Natural Landscaping local chapter at Wehr Nature Center, the annual native plant sale offered by the Friends of Wehr, and professional native landscaper Danielle Bell of Native Roots, LLC.

Adding a Rain Garden

We started in 2019 by planting a rain garden located where our sump pump was discharging and creating a wet area. One year later the area looked amazing with joe-pye weed, golden alexander, obedient plant, and many other plants!

Expanding with a prairie

Meanwhile, we used a 20’X20’ plastic tarp to cover the turf grass for one year to kill it without chemicals. Each year, we planted native plants into the dead grass area and then moved the tarp over to cover another area of grass for another year. We have now planted three new sections and will add more each year. In addition, we used cardboard covered with mulch to kill more grass for “islands” of native plantings around the property. Shrubs such as hazelnut, witch hazel, red osier dogwood, and sumac, along with a baby burr oak tree were also added.

When the new “yard” is blooming, we feel great satisfaction watching the birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects utilizing the habitat that we created. We’ve even had a nest of bluebirds! In winter when the plants are dormant, we know we are providing habitat for overwintering bees, insect larvae, toads, and an assortment of other living things. It’s doubly rewarding to not just enjoy the beauty of our natural habitat yard but also know in our small way, we’re adding to the richness and health of the local ecosystem.

Watch for the Friends of Wehr Native Plant Sale each spring to get started on your own rewarding natural landscape!

Sarah Stokes, Naturalist