Take the Lawn Challenge
The University of Illinois Web site Take the Lawn Challenge presents information about starting and maintaining lawns, as well as troubleshooting problems, in an online course format. Although the information is geared to Illinois, most of it will apply throughout the Northeast. The Groundcover Options section of the Dealing with Shady Sites section provides photos and information about alternative plants. The course is a little difficult to navigate -- I'd like to see a more complete listing of the information within each section -- but I like the focus on using good cultural practices such as proper watering to help prevent problems, rather than relying on pesticides to manage them after the fact.
Natural Gardening in Small Spaces
You don't need acres of land to create a natural landscape and sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. In Gardening in Small Spaces (Timber Press, 2003; $29.95), author Noel Kingsbury treats the garden as an ecosystem and offers advice for plantings that are both pleasing to the eye and friendly to wildlife. For example, one aspect of a natural garden is inclusion of a range of habitats, which invites a variety of wildlife as well as providing interest for the gardener. The author also advises choosing plants that suit the site, rather than trying to modify the site to suit the plant. After all, there are plants adapted to all but the harshest conditions on earth.