Yards don’t have to be big to be habitats.
Frances Allen ’s 75-by-130-foot yard in Central Austin abuts MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1). Even with the din of nearby traffic, the space feels like a secluded slice of nature. A tall pecan tree, a compost pile, a small fountain and plants such as American Beautyberry shrubs draw cardinals, blue jays and sparrows.
David Obermann’s Northwest Austin backyard was an unkempt garden when he and his family moved in 17 years ago.
Obermann has pulled out invasive, water-hogging plants, such as waxleaf ligustrum and chinaberry, and replaced them with native species such as Texas persimmon and Mexican buckeye. A bird bath and large rocky holes that fill up during rainstorms serve as water sources. A brush pile and felled trees have been home to foxes and other creatures.
The yard, which has been certified as a wildlife habitat, requires less water, pesticides and upkeep than a typical suburban lawn, Obermann said.
“A monoculture of plants will always be under attack” by bugs and fungi, he said. “Adding a diversity of plants, even just one at a time, improves the health and quality of a yard.”