What is rewilding? In rewilding a yard, a gardener returns a part of their yard to nature. This includes encouraging beneficial insects, reducing herbicide and pesticide use, pruning less, and planting more native plants. This practice is becoming more popular as people look for ways to be more environmentally friendly. At it’s core, rewilding means to allow spaces to return to a more natural (wild) state, and not manicure every square inch of nature (your yard is your nature after all).
Why rewild? It’s better for wildlife and you too! Using less chemicals and less motorized lawn tools reduces air, water, and noise pollution. Animals (including us) prefer quiet environments so use a broom or rake instead of a leaf blower. Insects and birds prefer thick, shrubby places to hide and native plants to munch on. Birds and other cute critters need bugs to eat and feed their young, so no more spraying the yard for bugs, even with organic treatments. If you have a real infestation damaging a plant, simply spot treat only that plant.
So, do we just let it all go? No, of course not!. It’s important to keep your edges neat and keep branches and weeds away from structures, sidewalks, entries, wires, etc. Removing invasive, exotic plants is an important kind of weeding to do. Rewilding can be done in small areas within a landscape such as backyard corners or side yards. In the front yard one could rewild an area but edge it with a neat and orderly fence or stone border. Your only limits are your imagination. The more space you can rewild, the better.
To begin, pick a spot and plant some native plants (bonus points for pulling out invasive exotic plants and replacing those). Learn your weeds and let the native weeds live here- remove the exotic ones. Did you know that many of our common “weeds” are really native wildflowers that benefit butterflies and other pollinators? Let your flowers go to seed (bird food and new plants) and leave some dead stems and leaves for nesting and cover. Be sure to give this area a defined and neat edge if it’s visible, so your neighbors know it was intentional.
Gardeners in communities with homeowner associations should always seek approval before making landscape design changes. Talk with your neighbors about your intentions- maybe they will join you and increase the beauty of nature around your homes. UF/IFAS Extension can help you find practical and beautiful ways to adopt these practices and share the benefits with others. To read more about encouraging wildlife in your yard (the heart of rewilding) read more here: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw175.
Enjoy your own private nature park!