Now that we’re hearing about world-wide water shortages and diseases connected to the chemicals we eat, breathe and touch on a daily basis, it’s time to do things differently. The decline in our bee population (perhaps linked to those chemicals, but also because they can’t find the right flowers to provide them with optimum nutrition) is causing concern not only for scientists, but for farmers and backyard gardeners alike.
Native bird species are dwindling, too… all because they can’t find enough healthy bugs and caterpillars to keep them alive. Why? Because the bugs and caterpillars, too, have been denied their preferred plant foods.
Watering lawns and adding fertilizers and pesticides to keep imported plants alive doesn’t make sense – especially when the native species are hardy, accustomed to the local weather, all-too-familiar with how to protect themselves naturally from pests, and beautiful to boot.
And the reality is that those fancy flowers and trees that come from all over the world might look nice, but they use up precious resources (like water) and space that could be used more productively, often require extensive chemical attention to survive in a foreign environment, and generally feed nothing. Not bugs. Not butterflies. Not birds nor bees.
Other non-native plants thrive here because nothing will eat them. In this case, they can become invasive. They will escape gardens, and take over meadows. Without natural enemies, they become enemies to our own bugs, birds and bees.
And? They travel a looooong way to get here.
That’s why native gardening matters. As Dr. Doug Tallamy writes in his must-read book on sustaining wildlife with native plants, urban gardens are crucial to supporting biodiversity and helping native birds, bees, butterflies and other species to survive (let alone thrive). Not only that, native plants will help to crowd out the alien and invasive species that can be damaging. (This refers more to community and government plantings in parks and large spaces, but the idea holds in your yard, too.)
Plus… and this is a big plus if you like gardening but also have other things to do in your life… native gardening takes less time. Yes, you read that correctly. Native gardening does not require ongoing maintenance once your plants are established. As if Mother Earth had a plan, the plants know how to grow here. They know how to weather dry spells, rainy spells, heat waves and cold snaps. No more (or, at least, less) lawn mowing. No more spraying. No more standing for hours on end with a hose.
Native gardening also encourages you to leave plants in the ground in the fall so over-wintering species can maybe grab a left-over berry snack and find a place to hide or stay warm in the cold weather. Just like Nature intended. So, in other words, when lives are hectic in September and October, you don’t really have to give your garden much thought. And after a cold winter, spring clean-up is a breeze.
Why not give native gardening a shot? Commit to planting at least one native perennial, bush or tree in your yard or in a pot for your patio or balcony.
Stay tuned to learn how our commitment to native plants guides our journey here at Loving Earth.
Until next time!