Eco-Landscaping / Conservation Land Management / Native Plants

Download this page as an info sheet: Tips for Eco Landscaping Flyer 17

There are many ways that you can make your property a place where nature functions in a healthy and sustainable manner. Eco landscaping (smaller properties and yards) and conservation land management (larger properties) add beauty, diversity, wildlife and pollinator habitat while often improving conditions of soil health, erosion and water management. Stewarding your land for ecological health can often be done with just a few changes in how you manage your property, or it can be an enjoyable, ongoing project with lots of opportunities for gardening and other activities. Logging, vegetation management, creating or enhancing water features, managing land cover can all be a part of conservation land management. A diverse, well managed landscape has the ability to be resilient in the face of changing conditions and problems such as disease or pest outbreaks.

WCSWCD can assist you in planning for eco-landscaping or conservation management. See the section Conservation Assistance.

Certify your landscape as a WCSWCD Certified Eco Landscape or Conservation Land, and receive a certificate and display sign!

Eco Landscaping

You can implement a number of simple and enjoyable practices on your land to create a beautiful, healthy, functional natural system that supports wildlife, birds and pollinator insects while preventing erosion and managing water flow. Carefully designed eco-landscapes resist pests and disease while creating vigorous plant growth, with little or no chemical inputs. Below are a few tips and some excellent resources to get you started.

Create a healthy, vigorous lawn with less chemicals: A lawn with healthy soil and no pesticides will support soil dwellers that feed birds and their offspring, and is better for children and pets.

  • Manage turf without weed killers, instead do the following to suppress weeds:
  • Leave clippings (mow with a mulching mower)
  • Mow high: Let grass grow taller to outcompete weeds, with the blade set at 3 inches high or more.
  • Fertilize young lawns with a nitrogen (10-0-0) fertilizer. Older lawns just need clippings or perhaps a top dressing of compost.
  • Add perennial ryegrass or fine fescue seeds over lawn for a boost.
  • Use a rain gauge to know how much to water. Lawns need just a little more than 1 inch of water per week…or let your lawn go dormant during summer drought.
  • Hand pull or spot treat weeds.
  • Do a soil test to find out what your yard or garden needs.
  • Beneficial organisms can be added to fight pests, including nematodes, fungi, or bacteria.

Change up the grass lawn!

  • Replace turf grass with low mow, no-water grasses, or spreading cover plantings (such as low fescue grasses and sedges), or even flower or vegetable gardens.
  • Create a meadowscape area with beautiful native flowers and grasses
  • Create a wet area garden or wet meadow in constantly moist or muddy areas.
  • Allow your lawn to create its own blend of wildflowers and grass, or add other plants, such as bluets, clover or violets. Dandelions are great for bees early in the season!

Other Eco Landscaping Ideas

  • Add native plants that provide food for birds, wildlife and beneficial insects. See the Maine DACF for plants that can be used. Provide a wide variety of plants from herbaceous plants to trees and shrubs.
  • Meadowscape former lawn areas or fields.
  • Provide fresh water and areas of open soil (bare earth areas) for pollinator insects.
  • Provide shelter for wildlife, including areas of shrubs and trees, and other types of cover such as brush piles, rock piles and logs. You can also add constructed bird and bee houses and cover boards for reptiles and amphibians.
  • Provide wildlife food such as berry and nut producing plants, winter feeders, and seed and nectar producing perennials.
  • Make sure your soil is healthy and alive with beneficial soil organisms and organic matter.

Recommended Online Resources

Yardscaping  We recommend the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s website on Yardscaping for many helpful tips on healthy residential landscaping.

Recommended Plants University of Maine Cooperative Extension Bulletin #2500: Gardening to Conserve Maine’s Native Landscape: Plants to Use and Plants to Avoid. Many other useful publications are available.

Maine’s Beginning with Habitat Program Municipalities and landowners with larger properties can benefit from planning with the maps and information on habitat values of land that BwH provides. BwH provides maps and accompanying information about these important habitat features (riparian habitats, high value animal habitats, and large habitat blocks) as well as additional information and tools to implement habitat conservation in local land use planning efforts.

Maine Audubon Guide to Conserving Wildlife in Maine’s Shoreland Habitats

Maine Audubon Guide to Conserving Wildlife On and Around Maine’s Roads

The Habitat Network An excellent resource for implementing your eco landscape! Includes an online tool to map and share your eco landscape (WCSW can assist you in mapping with this tool) and many very useful short guides to different aspects of eco landscaping.

The Meadow Project A resource site for meadowscaping. Their excellent book is listed below.

Ecological Landscape Alliance An excellent resource with articles and webinars on ecological landscaping.

The Wild Seed Project A wonderful resource on native plants, with many excellent articles. They also sell Maine native plant seeds.

Landscape for Life This site offers an entire curriculum of lessons on soil, water, plants and other topics, based on the Sustainable Sites Initiative. Free guides and lesson powerpoints are available.

Gardening Portal from Review Lab Links to many resources for gardeners of all types

For Woodland Areas

Focus Species Forestry Available online here. This excellent guide gives simple, step by step guidelines to managing your woodland with wildlife in mind.

Biodiversity in the Forests of Maine: Guidelines for Land Management by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Available online here. This simple, very useful guide provides instructions on all aspects of managing a forest to steward its natural biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Recommended Books

The Green Garden: A New England Guide to Planning, Planting and Maintaining an Eco-Friendly Habitat Garden, by Ellen Sousa. A lovely, visual guide, and perhaps the best easy to read introduction to eco-landscaping in New England.

Native Plants for your Maine Garden, by Maureen Heffernan. An excellent photographic guide to top plants for native landscaping.

Urban and Suburban Meadows: Bringing Meadowscapes to Big and Small Spaces, by Catherine Zimmerman

Bringing Nature Home, by Douglas Tallamy. If you really want to understand how your eco landscape works and why it’s important, this is your book. This very readable book has become the bible of ecological landscaping.

The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher by Robert Burton and Stephen Kress. An informative and comprehensive guide to the world of birds in your yard—brought vividly to life by more than 1000 spectacular color photographs. Includes many excellent tips for planting for birds.

Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies By The Xerces Society. This beautiful book contains the latest understanding about creating and managing pollinator habitat as well as a great introduction to insect pollinators. Illustrated with hundreds of color photographs and dozens of specially created illustrations.

Eco Landscaping for Larger Properties: Conservation Land Management

For larger properties with working landscapes, we recommend a “Walk and Talk” site visit by WCSWCD staff. See Conservation Assistance for more about this service.

Recommended Reading and Resources for Larger Properties

See the sections Forestry and Agriculture for more information.