Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

Commentary by a National Wildlife Steward who helps Zilker neighbors establish native plant gardens

2014 Neighborhood Habitat Challenge (Pollinator Garden Challenge) Started April 15 – Nov 15

Meredith Gray, Conservation Program Coordinator, Sustainable Urban Agriculture & Community Gardens & Wildlife Austin Program in Austin, TX, has announced the new 2014 Wildlife Austin Neighborhood Habitat Challenge and it is The Pollinator Garden Challenge! Neighborhoods are once again challenged to create wildlife friendly yards using native plants, but with an added challenge of supporting our pollinators with specific plant palettes and garden husbandry. This spring, make a home for bees, butterflies, beetles, moths, hummingbirds in your backyard.  

The great thing about this program is that it is completely FREE! Once you’ve created your new garden, it is free to get certified through the City of Austin – they pay the fee for you when you request a pre-paid habitat certification application. To get the application or for contest details contact the Wildlife Austin program: 512-978-2606 or http://www.austintexas.gov/department/wildlife-austin

The Habitat Challenge is an annual competition hosted by the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department’s Wildlife Austin program.  To compete in the challenge, participants create backyard habitats in their neighborhoods based on criteria developed by the National Wildlife Federation, which include providing food sources, water sources, cover, and places to raise young for local wildlife.

In 2014, neighborhoods are once again challenged to create wildlife friendly yards using native plants, but with an added challenge of supporting our pollinators with specific plant palettes and garden husbandry.  This spring, make a home for bees, butterflies, beetles, moths, hummingbirds in your backyard.  The top three neighborhoods that complete all the requirements and certify the most new habitats between April 15th and November 15th, 2014 will be recognized by the City of Austin and eligible for prizes.

This challenge extends to people with NWF-certified gardens and those who are just starting to add natives to their ecosystem (remember it can be an arrangement of pots on your balcony, not necessarily a large garden.) Following are the steps to follow.

  1. Download the Habitat Challenge Flyer (PDF): habitatchallengeflyer2014
  2. Download the Pollinator Garden Requirements for 2014 Habitat Challenge (DOC): Pollinator Garden Requirements for Habitat Challenge 2014

For those with habitats who are NOT yet certified through the National Wildlife Federation (NWF):

  1. We ask that if you are not already certified with the NWF for backyard habitat, that you fill out both applications – the Pollinator Garden Requirements and the NWF application.  Wildlife Austin has a certain number of prepaid NWF applications that are given out first come, first serve.  Please email us at wildlife@austintexas.gov with your mailing address if you are interested. We can help you submit your NWF application to certify your backyard habitat.
  2. Please submit the Pollinator Garden Challenge Requirements (attached here) to wildlife@austintexas.gov.
  3. Please note that when you complete the minimum requirements for the Pollinator Garden Challenge, you also complete the NWF habitat requirements.  By participating in the Pollinator Garden Challenge, you can pick up the NWF certification along the way!

For those with habitats who ARE already certified through the National Wildlife Federation:

  1. Congrats on deciding to further improve your backyard habitat!  Please fill out the Pollinator Garden Challenge Requirements (attached here) and submit to wildlife@austintexas.gov.

For everyone:

  1. To win the Challenge, the neighborhood will participate in a community habitat project such as removing invasive plants, planting trees, restoring a creek area, or planting a neighborhood butterfly garden.
  2. Additionally, participating neighborhoods will publish an article about the habitat challenge published in neighborhood newsletter and/or website.

By the way, I’m game to lead a community habitat project. Please let me know if you are interested in a project. I can also easily write an article about the challenge.

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