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Halloween in a Native Garden!

An argument is often made that when lawn is transitioned to a native garden there is some loss of accessibility, especially in terms of recreation. After explaining the benefits of less maintenance, limited inputs, and benefits to the local ecology, I often receive a rebuttal of, "But where can I throw a ball with my children?" Looking past the missed opportunity for a monotonous game of catch, a native garden offers so much more in comparison to a traditional turf yard and can be quite the immersive experience filled with all sorts of sights, sounds, smells, and textures to stimulate the senses and the mind. As the holiday season arrives, many people continue to want to decorate their yards to celebrate the festivities but some may not know how to do so in their new native gardens.

Keeping in mind that our gardens should be havens for local wildlife, we need to decorate smartly. This means to keep certain decorative accents out of the garden, while putting a twist on more familiar decorations from decades past. As with any other time of the year, lighting should be kept to a minimum. Unfortunately it seems even the smaller holidays (like Valentines Day) are being marketed with new holiday lights or blow up lawn ornaments that not only waste energy (no one is viewing these decorations in the middle of the night) but also disturb wildlife. Lasers and motion light projectors are extremely disruptive to wildlife, especially songbirds and should be avoided. If lighting is a must, amber or red wavelength lighting is the least detrimental to wildlife and can be worked into a festive holiday display (especially for Halloween or Christmas). Timers can also be used to limit artificial lighting for a few hours in the early evening but you still risk dissuading wildlife from roosting within your garden.

Statuary and ornaments that can be hung from trees and shrubs or otherwise incorporated into the garden are great options. Try to keep these materials as natural as possible, being sure to omit any plastic or other material that might have negative ecological impacts (looking at you glitter). Many times for Halloween, artificial webbing is draped and stretched over shrubbery. Avoid doing this as many songbirds and other small wildlife often become entangled and die. Other times this plastic can become dislodged and blow or wash away into the environment. Even the large reusable netting that creates a faux spider web can cause issues - especially if you are in deer country where the animals may become entangled.

Luckily Halloween (like many other Christian holidays) has pagan roots, and many common decorations compliment the more naturalistic - and naturally spooky - look of a native garden. Below are a few examples from my own garden that portray some wildlife friendly ornaments. The more natural a material the better, with wood, natural fiber, stone, and metal being ideal. You may have to do a little sleuthing to find that "perfect" decoration that compliments your own garden and taste, but it is possible! Also don't forget that for Halloween natural bones make great decorations! Maybe you found a skull on a hike or camping trip and decided to collect it (as many do). Now is the perfect time to give it a home in your garden! Not only will the minerals slowly return to the Earth, but animals, especially native rodents like Chipmunks, Mice, and Squirrels (but also Deer themselves) will chew on these bones to wear down their teeth and add calcium and other nutrients into their diets.

Photos Clockwise: A Skeleton emerges from beneath a Purple Love Grass/Sedge "Lawn"; A Crow perches atop a Skull holding a small solar lantern; A Garden Flag depicts a spooky scene with a Crow perched atop a (LI Cheese) Pumpkin beneath a Full Moon; A Giant Spider emerges from a Pitch Pine looking for a meal.

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