Before you are obliged to fire up the lawnmower this spring, consider renting a tiller to expand natural borders. Broader woodlots, shrub zones and flower beds, planted with native species and loosely maintained to permit pockets of native "weeds," such as thistle, honeysuckle and pokeweed, will reduce your work load and bring more wildlife into your yard. In a secluded corner, start a brush pile, a magnet for many insects, birds, reptiles and small mammals.
The suburban lawn is not a natural habitat and, while providing a convenient source of worms and grubs for robins, grackles and starlings, it is of no benefit to most wildlife species; unless you allow dandelions, clover and plantain to thrive on your cherished carpet, even cottontails will show little interest. Worse yet, most homeowners maintain their lawns with a toxic mix of chemicals, from fertilizers to herbicides, hardly a nature-friendly environment.
Unlike the high-maintenance lawn, natural borders bring a wide variety of plant and animal life to your plot of earth, providing beauty, entertainment and a chance to learn more about your local ecosystem. And, for parents, what better place to introduce children to their wild neighbors?