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Interested in conserving the environment? Intrigued with the idea of providing a haven for neighborhood wildlife AND reducing the amount of work, water, and chemicals needed to keep your landscaping alive, well, and attractive? Read on…

Winter is the perfect time to plan a backyard wildlife habitat for your Chester County PA home and design a garden that provides essential kinds of wildlife, such as birds, butterflies, amphibians, and small mammals. Because natural environments are quickly disappearing due to rapid development, greener gardening techniques which are mindful of the ecosystems and needs of native creatures have become essential.

There are many online sites which provide detailed instructions for turning your property into a mini-sanctuary for wildlife, but the initial steps are relatively simple and include providing food, water, cover, and space.

Provide Food for Wildlife

chester county homeEveryone needs to eat! Planting native herbs, grasses, shrubs, and trees is the easiest way to provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that many species of wildlife require to survive and thrive. You can also incorporate supplemental feeders and food sources.

Supply Water for Wildlife

Wildlife need clean water sources for many purposes, including drinking, bathing and reproduction. Water sources may include natural features such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and wetlands; or human-made features such as bird baths (change water 2 to 3 times per week), puddling areas for butterflies, installed ponds, or rain gardens.

Create Cover for Wildlife

Wildlife require places to hide in order to feel safe from people, predators, and inclement weather. Use things like native flowers, leaves, shrubs, thickets, brush piles or even dead trees. Remember to utilize both the horizontal and vertical spaces in your yard.

Give Wildlife a Place to Raise Their Young

Wildlife need a sheltered place to raise their offspring. Many places for cover can double as locations where wildlife can raise young, from wildflower meadows and bushes where many butterflies and moths lay their eggs to caves where bats roost and form colonies.

Green gardening for your Chester County PA home targets a reduction in water and chemical use, a decrease in the size of the area covered with turf grass, and generous use of mulch. How you maintain your garden or landscape (either formal or casual) can have important positive or negative effects on the health of the soil, air, water and vegetation that we all use! Here are some sustainable gardening techniques that you will help you conserve and protect our natural resources.

Mulching

Mulch helps keep water in the soil and available to the plant, rather than evaporating into the air. This can help reduce water consumption. As mulch breaks down, it provides nutrients to the soil, which can help reduce or eliminate the need for additional fertilizers. Be sure to use mulches that are from sustainable forestry practices (not Cypress tree mulch) and are free from pests and diseases. Your cooperative extension office can help you find sources of mulch in your local community.

Reducing Lawn Areas

Grass lawns often require chemicals and frequent maintenance. Gas-powered lawnmowers produce high amounts of greenhouse gases, which contribute to the air pollution that causes global warming. Since lawns are often made of only a few types of plants that most animals do not consume, they do not provide a lot of value for wildlife. Replacing grass lawns with native wildflowers, bushes, and trees provides the food, shelter, and cover that help to maintain healthy, natural ecosystems and reduces your time and labor working on the lawn!

Xeriscaping

Xeriscaping is an approach to landscaping that minimizes outdoor water use while maintaining soil integrity through the use of native, drought-tolerant plants. This is a common practice in drier areas, where water supplies and water quality are in very short supply.

Removing Invasives and Restoring Native Plant Communities

Native plants are better for the environment than exotic plants, generally requiring less fertilizer and other additives, less water, and less effort in pest control. They are especially important to native wildlife, such as pollinators, that may have coevolved with a particular species. Pollinators often rely on a certain type of flower as a source of food, while the flower depends on the pollinator to transport its pollen to other flowers for reproduction. When non-native or exotic plants are used, they often upset the delicate balance of a local ecosystem and sometimes even out-compete native species (hence the term invasive) to the point of extinction. Wildlife benefit more when native plant communities remain intact or are restored to their natural habitats, thus providing the best source of food for wildlife.

How to get started? Inventory what is presently in the backyard of your Chester County PA home and consider what can stay, what should go, and what is needed. Locate a list of plants and trees that are native to your area. Contact your local nurseries or agriculture extension office or search for assistance on line. Two informative sites are National Wildlife Federation and Wildlife Habitat. Also, give yourself a pat on the back for helping to restore natural habitats--and look forward to spring!

Chester County PA Market Statistics - February 2010

by Scott Darling

Owning a home is its own reward, but homeownership can also bring rewards at tax time. This year is especially beneficial for people who are in the market to buy a home, thanks to the $8,000 first-time buyer credit and the $6,500 tax credit for repeat buyers.

Current homeowners can benefit, as well. Tax credits are available for owners who improve the energy efficiency of their home, including replacing exterior windows, skylights and doors and installing efficient heating and air conditioning systems. Certain home improvements may qualify for as much as 30 percent of the project cost, up to $1,500.

Homeowners also enjoy a mortgage interest deduction; allowing them to deduct all the interest paid on up to $1 million in mortgage debt. If you bought a home in the past year, be sure to provide a copy of your HUD-1 statement to your tax preparer. The interest you paid at closing is not reflected in your year-end mortgage statement. Points and other closing costs may also be tax deductible.

Many housing markets were affected by an extremely harsh weather in February. Take a look at what February looked like in our local market:

Let's look at February real estate sales to see how the buyers are taking advantage of these tax benefits in Chester County.

Downingtown Area School District saw a 7% increase in pending sales in February 2010, compared to February 2009.  Sold listings have increased by 19% and active listings have increased by 16%.  There was a 15% increase in average sales price to $349,711, while market times decreased by 19 days.

Downingtown

Active
Listings

Pending
Listings

Sold
Listings

Average
Sales Price

Average
DOM

Feb 2010

82

42

21

$349,711

80

Feb 2009

69

39

17

$297,488

115

In the West Chester Area School District, there was a decrease in active listings  of 21% when compared to February 2009.  While pending sales decreased by 3% in February 2010 when compared to February 2009.  Average sales price increased by 5% to $348,806 and sold listings decreased by 31% from February 2009.  Market times increased by 16 days.

West Chester

Active
Listings

Pending
Listings

Sold
Listings

Average
Sales Price

Average
DOM

Feb 2010

107

66

31

$348,806

110

Feb 2009

136

68

45

$331,038

94

Pending sales have remained consistant in the Coatesville Area School District in February 2010 when compared to February 2009.  The average sales price decreased by 10% to $185,725 and active listings decreased by 11%.  The number of homes sold decreased by 19% when compared to February 2009, while homes were on the market on average 3 days more than in February 2009.

Coatesville

Active
Listings

Pending
Listings

Sold
Listings

Average
Sales Price

Average
DOM

Feb 2010

84

40

21

$185,725

111

Feb 2009

94

40

26

$205,590

108

A word of caution...markets within a school district can be very different from neighborhood to neighborhood. For the latest Chester County PA real estate market conditions in your neighborhood, please call me at 610-564-SCOT or visit ChesterCountyHomeSource.com.

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Photo of Scott Darling Real Estate
Scott Darling
RE/MAX Action Associates
403 W. Lincoln Highway #101
Exton PA 19341
(610) 594-SCOT
610-363-2001
Fax: (610) 363-5275