An email from Menlo Park resident Jonathan Leblang got our attention: “Last year we decided to replace our lawn with natural plantings to save water. Our son (now a 5th grader) was a bit upset about this, but then read an article about Certified Wildlife Habitats and asked if we could get our front and back yards certified. We said ‘yes’ if he told us what we needed and kept track of what we needed to do. Our yards are now beautiful, and he got us certified.”
That was intriguing enough for us to pay a visit to the Leblang home, accompanied by InMenlo contributing photographer Frances Freyberg.
To be certified as a wildlife habitat, a garden must provide food, water, shelter, and a place to raise young, we learned. Son Zachary explained how they first tore out the old lawn by “covering it with cardboard and wood chips that first kill it and then decomposes as a mulch.”
Jonathan said that they enlisted the help of Julie Powers Landscape Services, who did the design and selected most of the plants. “But I got a packet of wildflowers and sprinkled them all over the yard,” said Zachary.
He was also the main tender of the vegetable and herb garden that’s in the back yard, now mostly fallow after the summer harvest.
“We have a family of raccoons who live around here, and they visit, as do lots of honeybees and hummingbirds,” explained Jonathan.
The Leblang family has lived in Menlo Park for a bit over 13 years, moving to California from Seattle for work. “We love it here,” said Jonathan. “The Allied Arts area is a wonderful neighborhood.”
And here’s an incentive for those thinking about doing something similar in their yard: The Leblangs have reduced their water bill by 40%.
Photos by Frances Freyberg