An egret casually strolls through a back yard in Moss Creek. JOHN RIOLO

Friends sometimes say they would love to have their own property become more nature friendly or even get certified as a nature friendly yard, but they are not sure what it entails.

It’s not that difficult, and people often have the necessary elements already.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, a nature friendly yard needs just five elements: food, water, cover, places to raise young, and a sustainability plan.

Food: Our local wildlife evolved over eons of time along with the native plants that are the base of their food chain. Native trees and plants provide food to wildlife in a wide variety of ways, from berries to nuts to nectar.

These plants are important food also for insects, which in turn feed other animals. Many species need different foods at different stages in their life. For example, hummingbirds need nectar and regular doses of protein from mosquitoes, spiders,  gnats and other arthropods to round out their diet.

Water: Of course, all animals need water to survive. Any natural water source on or adjacent to your property can count as a water source in terms of qualifying as a necessary criterion. Often you don’t need to add fountains or other special water sources.

If you don’t live waterside, a simple bird bath or container water garden will work.

Cover: Wildlife need places to take shelter from bad weather and places to hide from predators or hunt for prey. Wildlife also need places to hide to feel safe from people and inclement weather.

Native vegetation is a perfect cover for terrestrial wildlife. Shrubs, thickets and brush piles provide great hiding places. Dead trees work quite well too. A dead tree can be a help to a  variety of different animals, including some that use tree cavities and branches for nesting and perching.

Places to raise young: Wildlife need resources and a sheltered place to reproduce and raise their young. Many places can double as locations where wildlife can both shelter and raise young, from wildflower meadows and bushes, which butterflies and moths can also use to lay their eggs. Caves can be used to provide a place where bats can roost.

Sustainable practices: Maintain your yard or garden in natural ways. Eliminate chemical pesticides and fertilizers and opt instead for organics. Conserve water, reduce erosion and use a compost bin. Use native plants and remove non-native or invasive species.

A balanced, nature friendly yard will require work – but often less than what it takes to maintain a  manicured lawn and yard.

Visit the South Carolina Wildlife Federation website at, call 803-256-0670 or email for more information about getting your property certified.

John Riolo lives in Moss Creek and is past president of the Nature Club of Moss Creek.