Humane Gardening Heroes

Minnesota Humane Gardener Lisa Taft

Image of frog in Lisa Taft's gardenShe loves plants. She loves the animals who eat them. In this first dispatch of Humane Gardening Heroes, learn how tree frogs, butterflies, deer and many other animals thrive in Humane Gardening Hero Lisa Taft’s lush Minnesota backyard.

Ohio Humane Gardener Paige Nugent

Image of EchoChicken_Paige Nugent

Conversion to a wildlife-friendly yard doesn’t have to be pricey. One seed at a time, this once-barren Ohio property has come back to life—for wildlife and pet chickens alike—in the nurturing hands of Humane Gardening Hero Paige Nugent.

Texas Humane Gardener Tait Moring

Image of fox in Tait Moring garden

A fox family takes shelter under the deck while snakes slither in the stone wall. From the much-maligned mesquite trees to the misunderstood rock squirrels,  Humane Gardening Hero Tait Moring welcomes them all.

Virginia Humane Gardener Toni Genberg

Image of chipmunk and Virginia creeperA visit to this suburban property feels like returning to a land time forgot, a place where salamanders, hummingbirds, chipmunks, caterpillars, and deer thrive in their long-lost home, a quarter-acre space transformed by Humane Gardening Hero Toni Genberg.

Washington Humane Gardener Kelly Brenner

Image of Anna's hummingbird_Kelly Brenner

Why weed when there are spiders to be rescued and beetles to be photographed? Anna’s hummingbirds may be regular visitors, but it’s often the tiniest creatures who capture the imagination of Humane Gardening Hero Kelly Brenner.

About the Series

Image of common whitetail skimmer
Humane gardeners rely on animals, not pesticides, to provide natural insect control. Dragonflies like this common whitetail are voracious consumers of mosquitoes. (Photo by Nancy Lawson)

Food, shelter, water, freedom from being sprayed with toxins and mowed down—it’s not too much to ask for. But unfortunately for many wild species, these basic rights have been stripped away. As wooded lots give way to lawns and once-diverse farmlands morph into monocultures, our static landscapes deprive animals large and small of their natural homes.

Image of opossum photo by the HSUS
Not a “pest” or “nuisance”: Each animal has a role to play, and opossums are gardeners’ best friends. North America’s only marsupials, they are considered terrestrial gleaners, nibbling on rotting fruit, carrion, slugs, ticks, and other insects. Yet orphans like this one often end up in wildlife rehabilitation centers, after their mothers are hit by cars, poisoned, or trapped. (Photo by The HSUS)

Reversing this trend starts with rejecting the dominant paradigm that divides the natural world into beneficial insects versus “pests”; garden plants versus “weeds”; glamorous wildlife versus “nuisance” animals. Humane gardeners look beyond such arbitrary frameworks of selective compassion, which train people to value birds while killing opossums, to welcome butterflies while poisoning their caterpillars. We resist the urge to mow down and vacuum up the landscape, recognizing that under every fallen leaf, rotting log, or loose patch of tree bark could be a queen bumblebee hibernating, a mother salamander coiled around her eggs, a roosting bat hiding from predators, and countless other creatures going about their daily lives. We celebrate the holes in our leaves, rejoicing in the knowledge that our yards sustain the lives of so many fellow species.

Do you know a humane gardener? Send me a message to nominate someone for the Humane Gardening Heroes series!

Now more than ever, one of the most important roles of an animal-friendly gardener is to inspire others to bring that same ethic to their own yards and communities. My upcoming book, The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife, includes profiles of these compassionate pioneers. And this new online series, Humane Gardening Heroes, will introduce readers to even more humane gardens in every state and province. Each garden and gardener will be different, but all are profiles in courage—the courageImage of Humane Gardener book cover to face long-held fears about certain plant and animal species, challenge cultural assumptions and arbitrary aesthetic standards, and view the world from the perspective of other beings.

Join me in celebrating these Humane Gardening Heroes by sharing their stories with others and sending me stories of your own. Working alone, we are creating life-saving pockets of habitat; working together, we can link up these fragments and transform the landscape for the animals who share our world.

Cultivating compassion for all creatures great and small

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