It's easy to become certified through the National Wildlife Federation. It doesn't matter the size of your garden, all you need to do is provide food, water, cover and a place to raise young in a healthy habitat. We didn't start with the intention of making a backyard habitat. We just had a bare piece of property that needed to be landscaped.
1993 Looking toward back of property before we put up a fence.
We started by planting 5 trees and a few shrubs, and trying to decide what would be hardscape; what would be grass; where to put a vegetable garden, etc. After several years we had a nice start and things were growing well.
same view 2002
I don't remember how I discovered the National Wildlife Federation backyard habitat program. But when I read about it I realized we could qualify. Because our yard is large (1/2 acre) I had been keeping a record of what and where we planted things. So I already had a list of plants to send them. I just needed to take a few photos and fill out their form.
There are about 200,000 certified backyard habitats. They have found that "certified habitats attracted and sustained nearly four times as many native bird, mammal and beneficial insect species as did nearby noncertified properties." We have certainly seen an increase in the number and variety of wildlife in our yard. See this post for a look at our wildlife:Who's in Your Garden? I bet there are many gardens out there that could qualify if only the gardeners were aware of this program.
1993 back of yard
We now have over thirty trees (10 are fruit) and over a hundred different perennials, shrubs, herbs and roses. Many things have changed in our garden over the years. But I believe that is what makes gardening so enjoyable. My husband learned early that when I stand looking out at our backyard and say, "I've been thinking", he goes and gets his shovel. We do feel pride in our garden because the majority of what is here we did ourselves.
2014 a more recent shot looking toward back of house
I will cover individual projects in up coming Garden Therapy posts. I hope this one will encourage you to take the first step to become a certified backyard habitat. That step starts with visiting this site: Garden for Wildlife
A thought to ponder: "A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust." Gertrude Jekyll