Garden guidance: Program can help you transform your yard

PORTLAND, Ore. - Carolyn Campbell says her yard is her sanctuary, but it wasn't always that way.

"When I moved in, my back yard was a dog run," she said.

Now her yard attracts plenty of wildlife, including the bugs she no longer tries to kill.

"That's totally the way it works. Then the birds feed on the bugs. So instead of having a lot of bird feed around, I can have bugs," Campbell said.

Columbia Land Trust manages the Backyard Habitats Program. It costs $25 to join, and coaches can give you some garden guidance. The program provides technical assistance to restore native wildlife habitats.

"The backyard habitat program is really one stop shopping for homeowners. It can be kind of intimidating. No knowing where to start," said manager Gaylen Beatty. "So we bring information and specific recommendations."

Janet Gifford has been working on her lot for about 30 minutes a day for three years. She put in more native plants and followed the program's general rule: right plant, right place.

"I wanted to build a rain garden," she said. "But not one in the shade, one in the sun. So I needed to select plants that like the sun. But also plants that don't mind getting their feet wet."

Funneling the storm water off her roof and into her garden, Gifford feeds her plants and saves about 75 percent on her city storm water bill. But the real payoff may be one she won't see.

"Long after I'm gone, this tree is going to be just beautiful. And birds and butterflies and insects will love that tree."

If you're looking for ideas, you can tour nine Backyard Habitats in Portland on Saturday, June 1, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can register online here.