Resolutions for the Native Plant Garden

The slight increase in daylight hours may seem marginal to some, but the barely perceptible lengthening of days at the new year causes gardeners everywhere to start their enthusiastic planning rituals. The new year is a time of inspired plans and big dreams for gardeners, and we all go a little overboard. The prospect of attracting pollinators, birds, and increasing biodiversity, heightens the excitement and opens a new door to a world of possibilities. To aid in the planning process, here is our list of the ‘Significant Seven,’ guidelines for the gardening path to biodiversity. Any one of these seven ideas can go a long way toward turning your garden into a living sanctuary. Some goals are quick and easy, some are continuous, and some will have more impact than others.

1. Diversify! Aim for a Succession of Native Plants, Blooming Across the Seasons.
Your landscape will literally hum with life if you offer a succession of native plants that bloom from spring through fall. This creates continuous sources of pollen & nectar for butterflies, bees, and other invertebrates. Different bloom shapes, and different colors, attract different types of pollinators. Seed heads and shrubs with berries are especially important for birds in the fall. Download our list of pollinator and plant interactions…arranged by bloom season.

2. Reduce the Lawn Area.
A huge amount of land in the United States is dedicated to lawns. This concept could be with us for a while yet, but when your goal is to support  life and biodiversity, less lawn is definitely better. Ways to reduce your lawn footprint:
• Add shrubs. Shrubs fill up more space, faster, and add incredible wildlife value.
• Consider a seed mix. A native seed mix is perfect for areas of 1000 square feet or more.
• Gradually increase/expand your existing garden beds for continual progress, year-by-year.
• Replace turf areas with native sedges, and groundcovering plants.
• Use No Mow Lawn for walking paths and dedicated play areas. It reduces mowing and maintenance and eliminates the need for chemicals. See if No Mow is right for your area…

3. Increase Nesting and Foraging Opportunities
Think about heights and layers in your planting design. Landscapes with varied, connected layers will create more nesting and foraging opportunites and it will attract more birds. Incorporate trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers in a wildlife hedgerow for maximum effect. Quick and easy opportunities: Add brush piles, and leave spent plants standing over winter.

4. The Right Plant in the Right Place.
We’ll post an article dedicated to this topic, later this month. The ecological benefits of gardening with native plants are fully realized when you have the right plant in the right place. You’ll get a thriving, sustainable garden when the plants are chosen to fit the soil, light and temperate conditions at hand. The ‘right plants in the right place’ keeps your garden networked with an indigenous wildlife community. Resolution: Become more familiar with soil type, moisture levels and lighting conditions around your property. Create plant lists based upon your specific locations & conditions.

5. Just Add Water.
Water is an attractive and highly beneficial feature in any landscape. Pollinators, butterflies, birds, toads and any number of other critters will seek it out. Introducing water can be as easy, or as involved, as you want it to be:
• Birdbaths are fun, easy and effective.
• Take advantage of a naturally moist area by keeping it soaked, and enhance it with a few water-loving plant species.
• Re-direct water runoff into a raingarden
• Create a man made pond or water feature.
• Simply dig a small shallow depression to serve as a watering hole, within or along the edge of a planted area, where you can water it regularly. Add rocks and stones in and around the depression for perches and to help retain moisture.

6. Eliminate the Use of Pesticides and Herbicides.
Just say no to chemicals. Let beneficial predatory insects do the patrolling and controlling. The more natives you plant, the more insect diversity you will see in your garden. And what could possibly be better than that? Birds will thank you, toads and salamanders will party at your place, and you’ll find more interesting subjects for your Instagram videos.

When it comes to weeds, the most environmentally friendly thing to do is pull them by hand. This method can take quite a bit of time, or it can be a simple daily chore. If pulling by hand is not going to cut it try a natural homemade weed killer, instead.

7. Tolerate Some Messiness – Leave the Leaves!
This is an easy resolution: Do less yard clean-up. Leaves are naturally the best mulch for shade loving native plants. We have more to say about it in our previous article Meaningful Maintenance and Fall Cleanup

We are continually encouraged by the growing interest in native plants and the increasing awareness of their important role in creating supportive habitat. Keep planting and contributing to a network that supports biodiversity. Happy New Year!

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