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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Sep 24, 2021

How Gardeners Can Provide Habitat for Wildlife 

By Lori Draz and Ann Sherwood

Colts Neck Mayor Michael Viola with volunteer Lester Martin and Colts Neck Shade Tree Commission members Melinda Martin, Eileen Stivala, and Pat Eastman

The wildlife creatures that surround us not only brings beauty and companionship. They – be they mammal, bird, reptile and insect – are also a part of the natural ecosystem. These native animals need help surviving the cooler weather ahead, and that amplifies the role of native plants. To learn more about creating and preserving a more naturally supportive environment, The Journal turned to Ann Sherwood, cofounder of the Monmouth Invasive Species Strike Team and lifelong environmentalist.

“By mid-October, the ruby-throated hummingbirds are well on their way to Central America,” Sherwood said. “Monarchs have started their migration south along with the green darner dragonflies. Just as humans have their to-do list to prepare their house and garden for winter, so do the other creatures that stick around New Jersey. Some, like the white tail deer, have adapted their metabolism to survive on their fat stores and can no longer digest the green plants of summer. Squirrels have spent weeks painstakingly stashing supplies. Birds look for cozy places to shelter from the cold, and many beneficial insects need to find a place to hibernate. All of these creatures depend on the remnants of summer for survival as they have for millions of years.  

“According to the Audubon Society, using leaves to mulch, creating brush piles, leaving the stems of ornamental grasses and seed heads in place provides wintering creatures with food and shelter. Of course, diseased plant material should be disposed of to prevent contaminating next years’ garden. There is plenty of time to clean up in the spring. 

“Fall is a great time to identify and eliminate invasive plants which crowd out healthy habitats. Cut back invasive vines at ground level and again as high above the ground as you can reach. Treating plants by painting herbicide directly on cut stems allows the herbicide to be carried into the roots. This method prevents contaminating plants you want to keep. The New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team website (fohvos.info/invasive-species-strike-team/info-center/) is a good resource for more information about restoring healthy habitats.

“Thinking ahead to spring, planting spring bulbs, adding compost and pruning shrubs that don’t need this year’s growth for blooming are great ways to anticipate spring as the days get shorter. Native birds, mammals and insects are often dependent on specific native species for some part of their life cycle. Incorporate some native plants into your landscape such as wild geranium (Geranium maculate), yellow wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria), and Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) to provide nectar for bees and early spring pollinators.”

The Monmouth Invasive Species Strike Team is dedicated to restoring healthy habitats through the collaboration of communities and organizations. In its first year, the team has helped organize three workshops on identification and management of invasive plant species. Local strike teams are now working with Eatontown and Ocean Township Environmental Commissions as well as the Colts Neck Shade Tree Commission. Volunteers in Eatontown are working at the F. Bliss Price Arboretum and in Ocean at Joe Palaia Park. Volunteers from Colts Neck held the first of what they hope will be monthly work parties to manage vines in the greenways. 

If you want to learn more about restoring healthy habitats or would like to start a strike team in your neighborhood, email MISST774@gmail.com.