Hello World! Welcome Friends! Today we have a guest post from Christine who has some wonderful advice to help choose native species for our gardens.
Choosing Native Species for your Garden
By Christine H.
Planning and maintaining your yard’s landscape is no easy task. In fact, there’s a reason that many people just leave it in the hands of a professional. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t pull off a stunning yardscape for your own home all by yourself. And the task will be much easier when you start with one simple principle: go native!
If this is a new concept for you, it’s not surprising. We’ve all been taught that the point of a garden is to bend nature to your will, right? However, we’re gradually learning that we need to adjust our thinking. In fact, of all the ways that you can create a more sustainable landscape, planning with native species is the very best thing.
Don’t get me wrong: human history is full of botanical cultivation that has been beneficial to all of us. For example, peaches originated in China and were carried to most of the world. It would be a shame to not have local fresh peaches. They grow especially well in Utah, where I live. Some species cause problems when they’re introduced to a new area. Others have a fairly neutral effect on the ecosystem, or even a beneficial one. So, I’m not arguing that plants that originated somewhere else have no business in your yard. However, here are some reasons that landscaping with native species instead can be majorly beneficial:
- Native species are more disease-resistant, and more hardy against local pests. Because they’ve grown and adapted to local wildlife and other local plants, they already have all tools they need to react to pressure from other organisms. This also means that you don’t have to use pesticide as freely, since local plants will often already have their own way to handle pests.
- It creates a habitat for native animals in your area. Local birds and mammals rely on native plants for their food and shelter. In fact, one of the major reasons that animals become endangered and extinct is because their usual habitat is destroyed by human development. Either a local bird has to learn how to adapt to an environment of Kentucky Bluegrass and perennial pansies, or it dies out. However, with native species, your home can still be a haven for valued local animals.
- Native species can handle the climate of your area without extra maintenance. For example, is your area prone to drought? Local species know how to get by on limited water, which can save you so much water. Do you have freezing winters that blanket all of the fauna in snow for months? Local shrubs, trees, flowers, and grasses can handle the winter and sometimes even depend on it for essential life systems. In the end, all of this means that your plants survive longer, and require less babying from you.
- A local landscape suits your environment better and can lead to beautiful inspiration and invention. Look at the picture of a typical suburban home. Where is it? Alberta? Southern California? Texas? Nebraska? There’s really no way to tell because it’s devoid of identifying native species. Think, on the other hand, about the amazing works of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. These homes were so stunning because they were shaped with the surrounding environment in mind, built to look like they belonged there. What if your yard did the same thing? Set your home apart from the norm, and let it blend into the surroundings instead.
Some Resources and Tips to Make It Happen
Because in many areas, we’ve stepped so far away from the actual roots of the native ecosystem, it can require a little bit of work in order to figure out the best local species for your yard.
To get started, look around for resources like local nurseries (especially non-chain ones) and restoration nurseries. They’ll have plantable native species that will thrive in your yard. This is usually a much better option than trying to propagate a local plant yourself, which usually has a low success rate. If you’re installing a vegetable garden, looking into heirloom species instead of the generic versions available at any grocery store. You can also get some help following the research and publications of local schools with botany and agricultural programs, and the information shared on their extension services. Many local businesses pertaining to yard care can also have helpful resources like this.
You’ll also want to do some research on your area. Learn what planting zone you live in and what that means for plants’ survival. Educate yourself on what kind of ecoregion and biome surrounds you – it it temperate woodland? Grasslands? Desert? These classifications can help you determine which plants will do the best in your area. You can also get ideas from looking closer at the weeds that plague you and which sprout up in abandoned areas–these plants know how to thrive flying solo. Of course, just because something is a weed doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a native species. In fact, many people believe that dandelions were actually an introduced species to North America. However, often those plants that are thriving all by themselves are there because they have been there for hundreds and thousands of years and they’ve learned to survive in that particular climate and soil. For example, in sections of California, beautiful golden poppies commonly spring out like weeds from between sidewalk cracks.
Once you’ve chosen which native species you’re going to plant in your yard, make sure you know how to care for them. Just because they’re local doesn’t mean they don’t need some TLC. The most common cause for new transplants to fail is under-watering. As they become mature and established, they’ll need much less maintenance, but initially, they will probably require some specialized care to make sure they survive.
Thank you, Christine! This is such valuable information when planning out the garden space!
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