Posted By: Michelle Kuehler /
Many nature lovers delight in seeing native plants in the woods during a camping trip or in their local parks, but many do not think to plant them in their own back yard. Gardening with native plants has become a popular trend in recent years as our culture shifts towards concern for the environment and more sustainable practices, but this type of garden can be a strange concept for gardeners with gardens full of beautiful ornamentals and non-native species. Fortunately, gardening with native plants can provide your garden with just as much beauty, while helping the environment.
What are Native Plants?
Native plants differ by country, region, state and even by cities and towns. A native plant is a plant that has evolved with your location. These are the plants that grew naturally in your area before we began to bring in outside plants to grow and farm. They are a natural part of the local ecosystem and have adapted to the climate, soil conditions and natural predators and pests.
Why Garden with Native Plants?
Growing native plants in your garden will contribute to the ecological balance that has developed in your area for millennia, as opposed to non-native plants which can be invasive and threaten the local ecological balance. Native plants attract the native wildlife that has coevolved with these plants, providing them with the food they need to flourish. Many gardens with native plants are blessed with an array of beautiful butterflies, beneficial insects, birds and native mammals.
Native plants also use fewer resources and help to lessen pollution, requiring little maintenance, and energy. Most native plants require little to no extra watering, fertilizer or pesticides. This means less pollution from non-organic products and use of fossil fuels from lawnmowers and conservation of water. If planted strategically on hills and under rooftops, they can also hold and filter water runoff that would otherwise pollute our streams. Native plants can also reduce erosion because of their long, well established root systems and native legumes can replenish your soil with natural nitrogen fixation.
Where to Buy Native Plants
The first step to planting a native garden is to do some research as to which plants are native to your area. Local conservation organizations should be able to provide you with a list of native species. There are also tons of native plant nurseries popping up and many online resources to get you started. Resist the urge to dig up plants from local parks and conservation sites where they are an already established part of the natural ecosystem and buy from one of these reputable native nurseries or local conservation organizations.
Design Your Native Garden
Natural plants can be interwoven with existing plants or you can start your native garden from scratch. Take an analysis of the conditions in your yard, including light availability, drainage, irrigation and soil type. Place your native plants according to their needs and your design preferences. You may also want to create a rain garden, which holds and filters rain water, reducing pollution from rainwater runoff. To create a rain garden, simply plant beds of native plants with moisture retaining properties on a hill or under downspouts. Make sure that you locate your rain garden about 10 feet from the foundation of your house to prevent damage to your home. Also plant them on hills and berms to help prevent erosion.
Preparing and Planting Your Native Garden
Native plants are usually grown in areas where the soil is naturally fertilized and full of organic matter. The first step is to amend the soil. Dig up or till any areas with weeds or grass and rake them away and add leaf mulch, which will produce a natural fertilizer through decomposition and a protective layer against weeds.
Native plants may be bought as seeds or already established plants. Once established, these plants will need little to no care but for the first few years, make sure to keep them moist and well fed. If extra nutrients are needed, use an organic fertilizer like Nature’s Balance 231, which can also help speed the natural decomposition of organic matter.
A native garden can be very beautiful and can draw in lovely native creatures that can bring life and joy to your garden. Planting a native garden may take a little research and work at first, but in the long run, it can save you time, energy and money by using fewer resources, leaving you with more time to enjoy to life that you have brought to your garden.