Zilker Neighborhood Gardens

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

Tag Archives: neighborhood habitat challenge

Zilker Neighborhood comes in as #2 for most new wildlife habitats in 2014!

Great news!

Your Zilker neighborhood has been designated as a “Winner for Wildlife” for the City of Austin Habitat Challenge by

completing the Wildlife Austin requirements and certifying the second most new habitats in 2014.

Thanks to you, the City has been re-certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat!

There will be a City Council Proclamation at 5:30 pm Thursday, Feb. 26th, 2015 in the City Council Chambers, City Hall
301 W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701.

Friends and family welcome.

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.

National Wildlife Habitat Steward Training – still open for spring 2013

I have heard that there are still a few spots open for our Spring 2013 Habitat Stewards training. You can register on our website www.keepaustinwild.com. Registration closes on March 31st. You don’t need to know anything about gardening to begin with – that’s what the training is for!

$50 for 30 hours of training

A more direct link to the sign-up page is: http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Parks/Wildlife_Austin/habitatstewards.pdf (PDF – may download or appear in your browser, depending on your technology).

Free Webinar: Building a Community Wildlife Habitat (Sept 27)

Roxanne Paul who coordinates the Community Wildlife Habitat program will be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, September 27th about how your neighorhood, town or community can get started on Creating a Community Wildlife Habitat. [Austin is already a certified community habitat, but it would be neat to get others to follow suit, such as your friends in other nearby towns or anywhere in the US!]

A community wildlife habitat is the largest designation we have for certification.  Community members work together to certify homes, schools, business and public spaces (based on their population size) and also complete various projects of their choicing.  Achieving certification – is a great recognition that your community – is not only wildlife friendly but commitment to “greening” their community for the citizen and wildlife alike.  It is taking a Tree City USA designation to the next level.

If this sounds interesting, please attend this FREE 1-hour webinar to learn more. If this time is inconvenient for you, within 2 weeks the recorded webinar will be available for viewing. Please share this widely with anyone in the United States.

Want to start a Community Wildlife Habitat project in your community?

Sign up for a free 1-hour webinar on Tuesday, September 27 at 3:00 Eastern time.  You’ll learn how to:

  • Put a team together, research your community and approach local government for support
  • Educate your community about gardening for wildlife
  • Earn Habitat Certification points towards certification
  • Plan community projects like habitat restorations, invasive plant removals and stream cleanups

And here is where to register:

What is a Certified Wildlife Habitat? and…a Challenge for Zilker!

As a National Wildlife Foundation Habitat Steward, my volunteer training is aimed at increasing awareness of creating wildlife habitats – this could happen in your yard, on a balcony, at a school, at a fire station, at a neighborhood grocery store.

A wildlife habitat sounds kind of scary and maybe difficult. I mean, think of the wild places you’ve been like Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone, or Big Bend – they are vast. But the size is not important. What is important are 5 key features that must be in place to ensure you are supporting wildlife – and these features are not that difficult to establish.

  1. Provide food. Native shrubs, trees, and flowers provide nectar, berries, seeds, and nuts for wildlife. You could do supplementary feeding with bird feeders or nectar sources like a hummingbird feeder (though these are not necessary and require more expense and maintenance).
  2. Supply water. Wildlife need water, too! This is especially important here in Texas where it’s quite hot. Water can be supplied in a birdbath (refilled), in ponds, puddles, or rain gardens. It doesn’t need to be fancy – a big bowl of water in the garden works.
  3. Create cover. Animals need places to sleep, hide, and have protection from predators. Again, native shrubs, trees, and even piles of brush or a tree stump or dead tree provide cover.
  4. Provide a place to raise young. The cover in #3 often work for some animals to raise young. But you can also think about providing bushes where birds raise their young, or where butterflies and moths lay eggs, or supplying bird houses or bat houses.
  5. Garden sustainably. Reduce chemical use, increase composting, use lots of mulch, installing rain gardens to funnel rain to seep into planting areas rather than go into the gutter.

To certify your habitat, you complete a simple online form. Normally, it costs $20 (plus a little more if you want a yard sign), but the City of Austin has free pre-paid forms you can use, saving you the $20. Remember, it does not need to be a yard – it could even be a condo’s front porch or apartment balcony!

You can even certify your property with a Pre-Paid NWF habitat certification application courtesy of the City of Austin. Email wildlife@ci.austin.tx.us for an application today. Please include your mailing address and phone number in your request.

I am in the process of working on my own yard in order to certify it as a NWF habitat (you’ll see more of my progress on that on the blog). Would you certify your yard, too? I can help give you advice and educate you on the process – feel free to email me (Joan) at zilkergardens @ gmail.com.

I would like to start the Neighborhood Habitat Challenge for Zilker in 2011 … how many habitats can we certify? Are you in? Look at the winners from past years in Austin. Last year, Bouldin Creek certified 14 habitats! I know Zilker can do more than that in 2011.

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