Family has Certified Wildlife Habitat in their Lancaster yard

Goldthwait garden in Lancaster NYFeeding wildlife started with feeding her own family, explained Molly Goldthwait of 78 Woodlawn, Lancaster.

fountain in grassless front yard in Lancaster NYShe and her husband Leon used to buy organic produce, but that got too expensive to do when they had their children, Beatrice, 10, and Henry, 7. By creating organic gardens for their own food, they created a supportive environment for wildlife.

The Goldthwait Family shared their yard during the Lancaster Garden Walk on July 21 and 22.

To qualify for the Certified Wildlife Habitat designation, you need to provide food, water, cover and a place for wildlife to raise their young. You can find out more at the National Wildlife Federation website.

At left, bees are attracted to the purple coneflower in the Goldthwaits’ grassless front yard. A small fountain in the background is where birds can drink and splash.

“Birds like running water,” Molly said.

The birds wait for her to turn the fountain on in the morning, she said. They fly through the trickle. Robins stick their tails in the water.

The Goldthwaits can watch the activity from their front window, and keep tabs on a robin’s nest from the kitchen window.  grassless font yard in Lancaster NY

At right is another view of the front yard.

Molly describes the gardens as messy, with vegetables and herbs and fruits and flowers all mixed together.

“I have oregano in the front yard,” she said. “The plants don’t have to be segregated.”

If you think about it, plants themselves can be difficult to place into categories. Is lavender an herb or a flower? A nasturtium, seen at left, is edible, with a delicious taste very much like a radish. So is it a vegetable or a flower?

nasturtium iis edible flower n Lancaster NY

The Goldthwaits have heavy, wet clay soil, so in a swampy area where even privet wouldn’t grow, they have elderberries, birch trees, pussy willow and hostas.

The pond, which you can see below, is a closed ecosystem. The plants are hardy and the pond is deep enough to support the fish and frogs over the winter, she explained.

“I don’t refill the pond with a hose, so the water level is low this year” due to the dry weather, Molly said.

Five frogs came to the pond on their own, and so did some fish! Molly believes that fish eggs must have come on a plant or on the beak or feet of a visiting bird.

“All that is very exciting and fun for the kids,” she said.pond in organic yard in Lancaster NY

That large turtle is really a sandbox, and there’s also a small swimming pool in the yard for the kids.

Molly personalizes the yard with crafts she makes, as well as with her large paintings. The painting below right provides a backdrop to the pond.

If you look at the photo at the beginning of the story again, you’ll notice something unusual about the Goldthwait’s lawn: It’s green. They posted a sign with tips on keeping your lawn lush during our dry weather:tall painting in Lancaster NY garden

How to keep your grass green in a drought:

1. Let the weeds grow! This lawn is full of creeping plants that are much hardier than plain old grass: clover, potentilla, ajuga and pennyroyal are just a few. And yes, dandelions, too.

2. Stop mowing when the weather’s hot. So what if it’s long? It’s soft underfoot. If you must mow, mow high.

We haven’t watered the lawn! (Honest!)

Here are a few final tips from Molly:

  • If you’re just starting out, start small.
  • Choose plants that are native and they will take care of themselves.
  • Ask relatives or neighbors for plants. Gardeners are usually looking to give away extra plants so they can make room in their gardens for something new, she noted.
  • Plant daylilies. “You can’t kill daylilies,” she said.
  • Plant something you can eat. “Put basil in a pot on your back step and you can brag to people, ‘I grew this!'” Molly said.


Garden walk next week:

Garden Walk Buffalo

Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Garden Walk Buffalo is the largest garden tour in America! Find a list of locations where you can pick up a paper map of the garden locations. Get a pdf of the map right here.


Photos by Connie Oswald Stofko

4 Comments on “Family has Certified Wildlife Habitat in their Lancaster yard

  1. I’ve had plants that just show up in my garden, which is pretty cool, but having new fish show up is amazing!

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