It’s no surprise that in recent decades, our earth’s plant life, animal life, and natural resource have become more vulnerable. This is due to a wide (and alarming) array of human activities — from population growth, climate change, and global warming to urbanization and over-exploitation of natural resources. And while that sounds rightfully overwhelming, there are global initiatives in place that are working hard to turn things around.
Native Plants are Good for Your Yard
One of them is Nature Needs Half, an international coalition committed to conserving and defending nature so that half of the planet’s life support systems will be protected by the year 2030.
This isn’t a pitch for you to ditch everything beautiful in your yard or garden for only native plants….which can also be beautiful, but to think about how we use our outdoor spaces. By bringing in some native plants, you can cut water usage and bring life to your soil, and your other plants will benefit also. We have been taught to believe that bugs are bad and though some are pests that can cause damage to our beautiful landscapes, there are just as many, if not more, that are beneficial to lawns and gardens.
To take your first step to protect and invite nature into your yard, check out these tips:
Incorporating Native Plants in Your Yard
The benefits of using native plants in your garden are many. Native plants are those that are native to a specific geographic area — plants that have existed for many years in that area, occur naturally, and have developed on their own. Plants that are native to northwest Ohio are very different from those that are native to Mesa, Arizona or Sydney, Australia — but they all serve to support Mother Nature in that specific area. Among the benefits of native plants:
- They provide shelter and food for wildlife
- They support pollinators (bees, butterflies, moths, and more)
- They use less chemicals — because they developed naturally, they are used to a specific geographic area’s climate and don’t need additional chemicals to keep them healthy
they use less water
- They help keep the air cleaner — less mowing and use of gas-powered garden tools
- They save money and labor
How to Transition to Native Plants
If you have a garden full of non-native plants — or simply aren’t sure which plants are native and which are not — and you’re ready to take action, follow these guidelines. Congratulations! You’ve begun a simple, but crucial, step into helping protect the earth.
- Get familiar with your areas native plants. Call your local county extension office and ask about obtaining a list of native plants, visit a local native plant garden center, read plant tags and labels (looking for “native plant ID), and tour nearby botanic gardens. Find out if your city or town has a native plant garden club and join it — making likeminded friends and learning from others is a great way to remain inspired and committed.
- Make a list of the plants you have in your garden, to the best of your ability. Every tree, shrub, vine, perennial, ornamental grass. If you’re a new gardener, this might be a bit challenging, but don’t worry — help is available. As you’re able, clip cuttings of plants and bring them to your county extension office or trusted local native plant garden center; they will help you ID what you have. Once you have your list, you can determine what is native and what is not.
- Immediately remove any plant that is considered invasive. Some plants are considered “invasive” and should be removed immediately after you ID them. These are non-native plants that easily grow out of control, choking out native plants as they go. Again, there are invasives that are common in every area, so get to know the ones in your region — kudzu, leafy spurge, yellow star thistle, and Johnsongrass are among the top offenders.
- Commit to adding natives every growing season. Unless you have the time, energy, and budget, it’s not necessary to rip out your entire garden and start from scratch. Simply embark on your native plant transformation methodically — add a couple of native trees one year, shrubs the next, and pop in perennials and ornamental grasses as you go. Attend plant swaps and annual sales at botanic centers and garden clubs to keep the cost down — but have a plan and overall goal and stick to it.