Gardening has always been a big part of Megan Rathz’s life. The Fishers resident grew up with a mother who is a Master Gardener and always remembers planting flowers her.
So, when her stepfather, Al Hopkins, told Rathz she should register her yard – which she planted with assorted flowers and perennials – with the National Wildlife Federation to have it certified as a wildlife habitat, she took his advice.
“Most people, even if they are avid gardeners, have no idea how easy it is to build a beautiful and safe habitat,” Rathz said. “And my stepfather said I was already creating one, just by gardening, (which is) one of my favorite things to do.”
Rathz recently had her yard designated by the National Wildlife Federation as a certified wildlife habitat and wants to tell others how do earn the same certification.
“National Wildlife Federation recognizes properties for certification that ‘commit to sustainability, providing essential elements of wildlife habitat (such as) food, water, cover and places to raise young,’” she said. “This is something anyone can do, even someone with a balcony in an apartment. You don’t need a huge property to make it one that protects wildlife.”
Rathz is happy to share her knowledge with anyone who wants to earn the certification.
“Fishers is a beautiful place to live, and the development is important, but it is taking away wildlife homes,” she said. “As beautiful as our community is becoming, many new building and housing developments threaten the habitats for so much of our wildlife.”
Rathz said many homeowners already have such habitats in their own yards and don’t realize it. When choosing plants for spring planting, she said residents should ask themselves the following questions if they are interested in earning certification:
- Is the plant something a pollinator will benefit from?
- Is it a native plant that is vital to the region?
- Is it something a caterpillar can lay eggs on like milkweed (butterfly weed) and help preserve monarch butterflies?
“Many of us have daylilies in our yard and don’t realize that aside from their beauty, they actually provide shelter and cover for animals and their young,” Rathz said. “And that’s all it really takes.”
Rathz hopes her family members eventually share her passion for gardening.
“My hope is one day my daughter and grandchildren still have my flowers and take care of them just as I have and think about how they can make their own yards a sanctuary for our wildlife,” Rathz said.