Teacher Oversees A Certified Yard


Jennie Doan, Reporter

   Leisuring in education and gardening, AP Environmental Science and Anatomy teacher Karen McGee tends a yard that is certified by associations and programs. This includes the National Wildlife Federation, North American Butterfly Association, Monarch Waystation Program, and  Arkansas Audubon Society. 

   “My yard is a mixture of native and nonnative ornamentals and trees, about 50/50 or maybe 60/40 native/nonnative. These include but not limited to; buttonbush, wafer ash, pawpaws, common milkweed, butterfly weed milkweed, black cherry trees, sarvisberries, elderberries, pokeberries, oak trees, loblolly pine trees, cypress trees, sugar maple trees, coneflowers, sugarberry trees, yellowwood trees, fringe tree, and dogwood trees. Animals in my yard are butterflies, birds, rabbits, raccoons, deer, coyotes, squirrels, possums, shrews, and unfortunately gophers.  There are also leopard frogs, narrow-mouthed toads, gray treefrogs, American toads, five lined skinks, six-lined racerunners, and ribbed salamanders. My yard has been certified for over 10 years,” McGee says.

   The requirements for a certified yard entails many details to consider. The general overview of these qualifications is to provide food, water, shelter, and use sustainable practices for the living inhabitants for a certified yard. Gardeners are able to apply for certification through an application process on the said program/association’s website or mail that comes with an application fee. The fee starts from $16 up to $75.

   “My yard provides seed plants, berries, nectar, pollen, fruits, suet, nuts, and a bird feeder for food. Over 30 species of butterflies and moths feed on the flowers and larval food plants. Water sources are a water garden and bird bath. Covers are evergreens, brush pile, dense shrubs, water garden, and wooded area. Places to raise the young are mature trees, nesting boxes, dense shrubs, water garden, and host plants for caterpillars. The sustainable practices I use involve soil and water conservation with mulch and collecting rainwater. I also try to control the exotic species by removing nonnative plants, using native plants, and reducing lawn area. My yard uses compost and I try to eliminate chemical pesticides,” McGee says.

   Certifying personal property helps to replenish lost habitats from the changes of our lands and waters, creating a safe haven for both local and migratory species. Essentially, certifying your property is spreading awareness about habitual loss.

   “The benefits of certification are making you aware of what you need to do to create the habitat for wildlife. The application fees go toward education and habitat protection,” McGee says.

   There are no local get-togethers with certified gardeners as these are a few and far between.

   “I garden because I love flowers and working outside in the garden. I have worked with flower gardens since I was a child and planted flowers with my mom,” McGee says.