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Debbie Roland, Master Gardener

In the next six months I will be doubling the size of my backyard – from 54’ x 100’ to 93’ x 100’. While researching what to do with all that space I came across the Texas Parks and Wildlife Wildscapes program. Since I plan to use the additional space for a patio, a separate fire pit area and area for wildlife, with minimal plantings, the Wildscapes program appeals to me.

Wildscapes is a habitat restoration and conservation plan for rural and urban areas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department encourages landowners to restore habitat for birds, insects, reptiles and even small mammals, on their properties. You must still abide by local and county ordinance, but small changes in your landscape can result in significant improvement in wildlife habitat. Texas A&M University Press has available for purchase several books that can provide more detail on providing what is needed; i.e. food, water and shelter.

Following are the tips listed for our area on their website which may help anyone planning for their 2020 yards:

 Know where possible gardening hazards exist before digging. Note buried utility lines or cables.

 Reduce turf areas with wildscape or xeriscape plants, and replace St. Augustine grass (in full sun locations) with grasses such as Buffalo.

 Before installing plants, know their height at maturity. A four-inch potted plant may turn into a ten-foot shrub! This will avoid planting in the wrong locations.

 Plant to create a multilayered effect. Offering tall, medium, and short plants grouped together in a tiered arrangement is very appealing to wildlife.

 Include evergreen plants in your design. They keep their leaves year-round offering cover for wildlife throughout the year.

 Choose a selection of plants that bloom or fruit at various times of the year, so there is always food for wildlife. Supplement with clean bird feeders if natural food sources are lacking or becoming established.

 Add a water source to your landscape. It's important to offer clean water to wildlife year-round. Water can be provided easily in the form of a simple pan, birdbath, or shallow pool.

 Snags, which are dead or dying trees, can be left standing to provide cavity nesting sites. Supplement with nest boxes when natural tree cavities are lacking.

 Install berms or mounds, and use curved lines to add interest. Rock walls and logs can be attractive features while providing homes for butterflies, lizards, and other small wildlife.

 Planting in the cool season (late fall or early spring ) will allow trees, shrubs, and hardy perennials to establish before the hot and dry summer. Nurseries often offer plant sales during the fall.

 Use organic gardening techniques, including compost and organic sources of fertilizer, to supply nutrients to plants. Try spraying insect infestations with a forceful spray of water before resorting to pesticides.

 Use two-four inches of mulch to reduce weeds and the need to water. Recycle leaves and grass clippings by composting or using as mulch

There is a wealth of information at this website:

If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.


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