Resources for Improving the Smaller Scale- Around the Yard
For the smaller-scale land owners with the average front/back yard and without the 'back 40' of LAND, there's still a significant impact you can do for the local ecology. Every square foot of flowers makes a difference.
From the Backyard
Every state has a native plant society with a bounty of resources on the plant species that grow native in the habitats of your area and would be well suited for your climate for low maintenance gardening that supports local wildlife as well. WA link is above. For other states: Here
There are a number of groups/societies/programs that coordinate personal backyard habitat creation and even certification.
Typically run by a university extension program, Master Gardeners go through a training program and volunteer regularly, with many ways to help you improve your gardening practices.
Sustainable gardening via American Horticultural Society.
Their page about making your gardening practices more sustainable and in tune with the broader environment.
Better Alternatives for Your Yard
links to info pages
Many homeowners and yard-keepers use a variety of chemicals in their landscape, including pesticides, soil amendments, and fertilizers. Industry has created mass and cheap options but those aren't often the best for either us or the ecosystem. See Why.
How to make your yard more attractive & friendly to the local wild birds (many species are in alarming decline all over the US). #1- keep your cat inside (esp in daytime). The National Wildlife Fund and American Bird Conservancy have some suggestions. and here's a PDF guide by Point Blue Conservation Science about turning your yard into bird habitat- short but very informative.
The iconic lawn that became a symbol of wholesome successful American life is not a very sustainable or ecological yard feature. There are other options that are also cheaper and easier to keep, & help the environment.
There are a lot of options for filling your yard with various plants and they are not all equal when it comes to benefiting the environment. Some can even help you, even save you money each year. The plants the keep on giving.
Here are some other plant options.
Both helpful for the environment and your vegetable garden- supporting native pollinators. Tufts Pollinator Initiative has "5 ways to make your yard pollinator friendly". For the nerdy types, Xerces Society (heavy weights of pollinator conservation) has a great checklist document FULL of info for the whole US.
How to build a Pollinator Garden by The Farmers Almanac & by US Fish & Wildlife.
Need a good book to curl up with?
Here are a few I've picked up and found very informative for modern & science-supported gardening efforts to optimize your produce and your ecological impact.
"A Practical Guide and Reference Manual to the Ways, the Whys, and the New Sciences of Better, Easier Gardening"
Brand & spanking new, this book by horticulture specialist Joe Seals shares the "more and better explanations of how to do it". Gardening, that is. Seals helps us see gardening at home from the perspective of a scientist and ties new sciences to the old step-by-step practices you may find know.
From my former graduate advisor and leading expert in invasive plant & conservation biologies, Sarah Reichard. you can tell this is book by a plant-loving scientist. From soil and how to spot a potentially invasive horticultural species, to pests and gardening amongst climate change, Sarah also shares some insight into her growth (ha) as a plant professional. This modern take was inspired 1949's "A Sand County Almanac" by famous nature-phile Aldo Leopold who is credited to have started the stewardship of the wild landscape long before it was cool.
In an early (2008) effort to modernize gardening and make it more eco-friendly, plant physiology university researcher and educator Linda Chalker-Scott collected modern research on old ideas. "In this introduction to sustainable landscaping practices, Linda addresses the most common myths and misconceptions that plague home gardeners and horticultural professionals. Using a myth - science - summary format, the book simplifies the science. Also available as an Audiobook.
Your yard can have serious positive impact on your area's flooding by capturing the water that would just run-off your home's roof, walkways and driveway (anything impermeable) and then washing any pollutants it takes with it right down storm drains in the road. A rain garden holds that potential run-off from your property and lets it more slowly filter down into the soil to reach deeper ground water, after cleaning the pollutants out through the soil where many can break down over time. And they can save you money too! AND many local municipalities will actually cover most of the cost to install one because they save the cities lots of money. Win, win, win, win, right?
Local Native Plant Nurseries
Don't forgot to search around your area for any native plant nurseries, or those that carry a selection of natives to add better wildlife-supporting and low maintenance landscaping. Horticultural species tend to support far less wildlife (insects can't eat them, and birds don't have any insects to eat, etc) than native species, plus they often need more water, fertilizing, and pruning. And native plants can be just as beautiful, especially with a lower water bill in your hand!