News and Ideas
The innovative and unique
Spring is almost here and gardeners are thinking about their garden. Well, to be honest I have been thinking about my gardens since November.
If you are like many people you have not planted native plants but have heard that they may be beneficial to the environment and are interested in them. Where do you start and how do you know which plant to choose. You may have received mixed messages about the value of natives and whether it is worth purchasing one.
In my experience native plants are more attractive to pollinators than cultivated natives and exotic species. I have watched bees pass by the cultivated native in favor of the naive plant so now believe that if you want to plant to benefit pollinators the straight native provides the greatest benefit. If you are planting for the pleasure of looking at the plant you may have a different calculation. Most gardeners are not purists - they simply want to help with some native plants. If you are one of those gardeners please read.
Plant for few species and provide more:
There are some native species that do more for pollinators than others. Native Oak trees provide for hundreds of local wildlife including blue jays who value the acorns in the winter. Other trees provide food and shelter but don't provide for as many in the ecosystem.
There are some early small trees and bushes that are a critical food source in the spring. Pussy willows, spice bush and redbuds are important spring food sources and fit into lots of yards. Redbuds are striking and spicebushes are hosts for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.
You may not be interested in trees or bushes but still want a native plant or two. A pollinator plants in the front yard is more valuable to pollinators than in the back yard. One or two (or more) native plant species, such as bee balm, swamp milkweed, butterfly bush, asters or zig zag goldenrod, in a garden bed in the front yard or "hell strip" in the city are easily seen by bees or butterflies scanning for food.
Avoid Pesticides and Lawn Services:
Unfortunately there are no safe pesticides for pollinators. Spraying at any time will kill whatever is in the lawn both good and bad. The best way to have a great lawn is to buy eco-friendly grass species and/or mow higher. Even a few inches will give your lawn a healthy boost.
Remove as much Lawn as practical:
I'd rather have a yard full of pollinator plants than a mono-culture. If you want to mow less and provide more then give up a portion of your yard to a meadow. There are easy ways to do this - stop mowing, over seed with native seed in the winter and plant plugs in the area letting wind and birds spread the seed for you.
Consider devoting 10% of your yard to Native Plants:
If everyone did more - everyone could do less.
Stop in at the CW Native Plant Farm and find out more about native plants.
Kathleen M Contrino