| | 39 green living tips 39 Winter Habitat at Home Learn to landscape for wildlife like we do at North Mountain Park In temperate Southern Oregon, many people are still winterizing their yard for the wet season well into December. As you clean up, it’s nice to consider who else might be enjoying your yard this winter. As the temperature drops, many animals move to lower elevations or look for shelter in your yard. By supporting them with food, water and shelter, they can help reduce pests and diseases and provide opportunities to see wildlife from the comfort of your cozy home. To help local wildlife, try pruning in the spring instead of the fall. Although annual plants will die and turn to goo over the winter, most shrubs and small-leaved perennial plants can wait until the spring to be cut back. These plants provide cover and habitat for pollinators, small animals and the bugs they eat. Plants and flowers that have gone to seed make an especially good source of food for a variety of birds and small mammals. If you don’t like the look of the spent flowers, they can be cut with 6 to 10 inches of stem left standing, to help provide cover and habitat for early spring pollinators. Consider leaving some of your fall leaves on the ground. This helps protect your soil and can provide cover for small creatures such as frogs and salamanders that may emerge from semi-hibernation during warm days and which are particularly good predators of slugs. Leaving a layer of leaves also helps to insulate the microscopic ecology in your soil, as well as insects and hibernating critters. If possible, pick a corner of your yard to leave a brush pile. Piles with twigs, branches, leaves and grass can provide habitat for a variety of animals, some of which may even feed larger predators such as foxes and bobcats. Your old Christmas tree can be added to the pile until it’s carted off in the spring. One of the easiest things you can do to support wildlife in your yard, is to leave something outside to collect water, and defrost it as necessary. Providing a bowl on the ground will allow other animals to drink without disturbing the bird bath. In the spring, think about planting native berries or seed producing plants that will help local wildlife make it through the winter. Shrubs such as Red-flowering Currant, Oregon Grape and Three-leaf Sumac, provide berries for birds and mammals, and early food for spring pollinators. Be sure to visit the North Mountain Park Demonstration Gardens for more plant and landscaping ideas. You can join our team of habitat-savvy volunteer gardeners, who work and learn from each other every Wednesday morning, March through November. Till then, join us on alternating Saturdays through March for Project Feederwatch to learn about the birds you’re likely to see visiting your feeders in winter. For more information, call the Nature Center at 541.488.6606. The North Mountain Park gardens are winter habitat Photo courtesy of Frank Sobotka 15