Changing the plant base of all of suburbia is quite an undertaking but all you have to worry about is your eighth of an acre. Planting the back and side borders of your lot will provide more habitat than you might think, especially if you can get your neighbor to do the same. If your plantings are 15 feet wide, and your neighbor’s border plantings are also 15 feet wide, together you have created a 30-foot swath of habitat for the length of your yard, as well as a privacy screen that can enhance the value of your property. The important thing to remember is that even if you seem like the only one in all of North American who uses more natives than aliens, wildlife will be better off for your efforts. The effects will be cumulative, and probably synergistic, as more and more people join you. And don’t forget that plants are long-lived. The white oak you plant tomorrow could easily live 300 years, servicing innumerable insects, birds, squirrels, mice, raccoons, and deer every year of its life. Yes, you can make a difference on a small plot of land. You can even make a difference if you own no land. If you live in an apartment, you may be able to influence the landscaping habits of your landlord, or the company you work for, or the township supervisors who control your city parks, or your sibling who does own property. If we humans are capable of turning hundreds of millions of acres of rainforest into depleted grasslands, and extirpating millions of buffalo from the plains, and billions of passenger pigeons from the skies and cod from the North Atlantic, we are also capable of returning natives to our gardens.
Bringing Nature Home