The Westerville Garden Club is working to increase the number of spaces in the city designated as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

The wildlife habitat distinction comes from the National Wildlife Federation through its Gardening for Wildlife effort. According to the NWF's website, the habitats "landscape with wildlife in mind, promote the use of native trees and plants, work to reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and chemicals, and integrate wildlife-friendly practices into sustainability plans."

Vickie Muse, a garden club member, said several area gardens have earned the distinction, which is part of an overall effort to help the city of Westerville do the same.

"We work very closely with the city of Westerville parks and recreation department, and they want to become a certified wildlife city," she said. "So the more gardens that get certified, the more it helps them with the points system they need."

The garden at Linda and Jeff Laine's residence is a Westerflora garden tour staple and was one of the first gardens to get certified.

Since then, Linda Laine swears she's seen "every animal other than bears in our gardens visiting."

She said she's seen raccoons, deer, fox and opossums, along with a variety of birds and insects.

"While we watch the birds every morning while we have our breakfast, they, too, watch us, and if there isn't enough food in the feeder, they let us know by either staring at us or making strange bird sounds to alert us to the fact that we better fill up the feeder," she said.

Every certified garden provides natural sources of food, water, cover and places to raise young and is maintained in a sustainable way that incorporates native plants, conserves water and does not rely on pesticides, according to a release from the club.

Muse said she'd like for many more gardens in the area to be certified, and she's "spreading the news around" and trying to help other gardeners.

Westerville needs 250 habitat certification points to become certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat, the release stated. Points are received for each habitat that becomes certified: one point per certified home, three points per certified common area and five points per certified school. Westerville currently has 90 certified habitats giving 96 points of the 250 required to be certified.

In order to reach the goal of having half of the certification points by the end of the year, 29 additional points are needed, according to the release.

"It coincides with our garden-club mission," she said, "which is to promote the conservation of natural resources and promote environmental and ecological standards."

The club has 68 members, which would go a long way toward helping Westerville in its attempt to earn the certification.

"If we can get them all, it would be awesome," she said.

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