Photo By: John Haslam,
You may be wondering – why should I grow native plants on my property? Simple answer is – because it is beneficial for you, your community, and for our wildlife.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency or US EPA, the advantages of landscaping with native plants include: reduction of pesticide use, improvement of our air and water quality, food and shelter for wildlife, promotion of biodiversity and more! Now who doesn’t want that?
Note: To learn more about the benefits of “green landscaping”, visit the US EPA website.
But what exactly are native plants? Native or local plants are those that grow and evolve naturally in North America, way before Europeans brought in plants from distant countries. They grow in areas with other species that have adapted to geography and weather conditions. The most commonly known communities include tall grass and short grass prairies, beach-maple forests, and freshwater marshes to name a few.
If like the many others, you have decided to switch to gardening with native plants, here’s an easy-to-follow guide to help you get started.
- Planning. Careful and thorough planning is needed when creating a native plant landscape.
As a landowner with wildlife in mind, it’s important to first identify and understand their basic needs (food, water, shelter) in order to attract them to your property.
Meeting their requirements requires careful arrangement of plant types and specific plant diversity. You have to identify if the plants you already have are native or not, then decide whether to replace or keep them.
To help you decide what plants to use in your landscaping project, refer to websites of native plant providers. Consult with reputable nurseries specializing in native plants, nature preserves, botanical gardens and with your local parks to get a better idea.
Also, you will need to add water features to your landscape, feeders and nest boxes.
- Site Preparation. Once planning is complete, it’s now time to buy the plants you’ve decided to use and make sure they will be planted correctly.
Bear in mind that each species of native plant adapts to a specific range of soil types, moisture and light conditions. Therefore, you will need to collect soil samples from different areas in your property and have them tested and analyzed for nutrient content. The results will give you specific recommendations for preparing and or amending your soil appropriately.
If you have plants you want to remove from the landscape, do it without using herbicides. Unwanted turf can be eliminated by covering the area with damp newspaper and piling several inches of composted leaves and mulch on top. If you also have woody plants to cut off, you can do so by cutting them to the ground. In most cases the roots and stump must be removed as well.
- Proper Planting. Improve your chances of success in your native plants landscaping through proper planting techniques. First of all, make sure your planting hole is 2 – 3 times as wide as the root ball to ensure your native plant grows out, not down.
Check to see if the root ball of your plant is level with the existing grade. The plant’s root collar should also be above the soil. Use the original soil to backfill the planting hole. Be sure to water thoroughly at the time of planting.
- Maintenance. Maintaining a functional and attractive native plant landscape requires special care. You have to be careful not to over-manicure and degrade the quality of your landscape as a wildlife habitat.
Some native plants will grow fast and before you know it, you have more of them than your landscape can handle. To maintain the balance of your landscape design, divide these successful plants and share the rest to those who wish to plant them in their property.
As for your trees and shrubs, prune them only during winter and not during nesting season (March – July). Avoid using pesticide; it may harm the wildlife you’re hoping to attract. Establishing a native plant landscape takes about 3 – 5 years so you have to be patient. You efforts will pay off eventually and wildlife will thank you for it.
Author Bio: Morton Karrie has worked in the landscaping industry in various roles. She loves to write topics about child care, organic gardening, patio pavers, pool decks, and landscaping.