BOULDER, CO--When Mona Squires moved here from Reno, NV 14 years ago, she bought a quarter-acre lot in a typical suburban subdivision.
“The lot had one tree and all lawn,” says Mona. “That had to change!” Growing up in Australia, Mona has always wanted to be a farmer. She moved to the United States in the 1960s, but, unfortunately, never had the opportunity to own land to farm. But she has made gardens wherever she has lived. “I feel like it is our responsibility to be stewards of the land wherever we are,” she says.
Not Your Typical Suburban Lot
Mona’s property stands out like a wilderness in her “spic and span” subdivision. She has planted many trees, such as cottonwood, linden, green ash, serviceberry and a honeyberry bush—a type of honeysuckle.
“I purchased the honeyberry (Lonicera kamchatika) a few years ago and it’s been growing great. I love the blueberry-like fruits as a wildlife food,” she says. “I used to eat them myself too, but I felt like I was pinching them from the robins, so I stopped,” she says.
Her goal is not to create the most beautiful manicured landscape, but to create a wildlife garden. “This is not a backyard garden, but a sanctuary garden,” says Mona. “I grow plants to invite birds and wildlife into my yard. I stopped growing vegetables because it didn’t fit the wildlife theme,” she says.
Beside planting trees for shade, adding shrubs for nesting and habitat, and making a fish pond, Mona has turned three-quarters of her lawn into a xeric landscape. (Xeric describes habitats or plants that require little water.)
“My kids think I’m losing it,” she laughs. While there is color in the yard with flowers, such as dianthus and petunias, most of the plants are natives, chosen for their drought tolerance, such as Apache plume shrub (Fallugia paradoxa) and prairie dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis). She also has a small herb garden for herself (and the bees, of course), which is filled with culinary herbs, such as tarragon and mint.
Products That Help
Mona has some favorite products that have helped her create this beautiful habitat garden. “The Barley Balls have helped keep my pond clear of algae,” she says.
“I also like to compost. In fact I’m composting all the leaves in my yard,” she says. Mona took the University of Colorado Master Composter course a few years ago and decided to try some of the Super Hot compost starter. “It did make the compost start faster and finish sooner. I also use a compost aerator to keep everything mixed up and cooking,” says Mona.
Of course, she has products to attract wildlife to her sanctuary. “The roosting pockets are great places for sparrows and chickadees to hide and nest,” she says. She has them hanging in the trees so the small birds can find protection from Colorado’s sometimes severe weather.
Because getting around isn’t as easy as it used to be, Mona is always on the lookout for products that will help make her gardening chores a bit more comfortable. “The knee pads really help with all the bending I have to do,” she says.
Mona’s landscape has inspired others in her neighborhood to grow more xeric plants, but she doesn’t consider herself an activist. “I’m humble and I like to lead by example,” she says. “I also like to bring the grandkids here to see all the wildlife,” she says.
“Preserving the earth is something we should pass on to future generations”, she says. Although Mona has never had the chance to be a true farmer, she has cultivated every inch of her small property, not just for her own enjoyment, but to encourage her neighbors and grandkids, and to provide a safe place for nature to thrive. –Gardener’s Supply