Basic Steps for Gardening at Home

Here is a list of basics steps that a gardener can follow. The more natives you incorporate into your garden, the happier flora and insects will be.

Start small

Redesign small patches of your existing garden – or, even better, create a brand-new planting on the edge of an existing garden or behind, or in an area that is currently lawn. When one alien plant dies, consider replacing it with the native species that comes closest. Are you willing to trade in some of your lawn for specimen trees or even a small woodlot? Most yards can support many more trees than they currently do, particularly
near the borders of the property.

Plant and protect trees

WE HAVE TO reduce our production of carbon dioxide. Trees are carbon sinks. They use carbon from the atmosphere to build their tissues and they keep that carbon locked up and out of trouble until the tree dies many many years later. For example, one large sugar maple tree can sequester 450 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. Choose trees wisely – some have a greater ability to support wildlife.

Plant diversity

We need to build complexity and diversity into our gordens. Creating the vertical structure found in nature’s own designs, by using ground cover, shrub, understory and canopy species. Remember that animal diversity is a direct result of plant diversity. If you want to support lots of wildlife you must supply as many different species of native plants as you can. A good place to pack them in is in hedgerows and border plantings. You can even diversify formal frontyard plantings, particularly beneath large specimen trees. This is the perfect place for densely planted viburnums, red or black chokeberries and native azaleas. It is the shrub layer rather than the tree canopy that birds most often use as nesting sites.

Plant wider beds

Even if your property is small: planting the back and side borders of your lot will provide more habitat than you might think, especially if you can get your neighbours to do the same. If your plantings are 15 feet wide, together yoU would create a 30 foot swath of habitat for the length of your yard, as well as a privacy screen.

Build a three-dimensional garden

Small plants in front, tall ones in back. Provide places for animals to hide and nest. Native border gardens should be as wide as possible and as densely planted as possible. I’s good if you can’t see the ground, be cause then you have succeeded in providing safe sites for creatures that need them.

Reduce lawnmowing

Reducing the amount of lawn you mow each week is one of the best things you can do to reduce your family’s carbon dioxide emissions. On average, mowing your lawn for one hour produces as much pollution as driving 650 miles. We now burn 800 million gallons of gas each year to drive around in those dirty litle lawnmowers. In all, we spend about $45 billion on lawn care each year (US figure!) Converting lawns to trees or garden would not only save us some money and create much needed food and habitat for our wildlife, but it would also have the twofold benefit of producing less and absorbing more carbon dioxide: a win-win situation

Fight invasive species

The longer we let an area go, the more the aliens push out the natives. We should be vigilant in keeping them back. (l am fighting garlic mustard, dog-strangling vine, buckthorn, yellow flag iris.)

What to plant?

Not all natives are equal when it comes to creating animal diversity. Some plant species host many dozens of specialist herbivores, while others host only a few. For example, few insects are able to eat ferns, while oaks, willows, and cherries are at the other end of the spectrum, hosting over 1,400 species among them.

The perfect mulch: when we remove leaf liter, we lose much! It provides so many free services: re-mulch, free fertilizer, moisture retention, free weed control and free soil amendments. It also provides habitat to many of the arthropod predators that help keep garden communities ecologically balanced.

Don’t CLEAN UP your garden!

Greatest cause of winter death for arthropods: desiccating! Because we “clean up” the garden, that is we remove plants and leaf litter, which would provide lots of moist overwintering sites. Provide lots of alternative food sources for spiders!

Native gardens need not be messy gardens. We could use natives the same way we Use aliens. Natives make wonderful specimen plants, they mass well and can be trained and pruned. Be as neat and formal as you want; just remember that formal does not have to mean barren.

Managing our human neighbours

Peer pressure from neighbours can be intense. Landscaping with natives is not inherently messier or less beautiful than landscaping with aliens. People don’t really know how to tell one plant apart from another. However, we should create larger and more densely planted gardens than in the past. Our foundation planting should be wider and we should add border beds, which would add habitat to our properties, while reducing the area dedicated to lawn. We might also decide to add more specimen trees or even to create a grove of trees, with an understory of small trees and shrubs.

Lead by example

People have an innate love for nature, they like living things. ir’s up to us to set an example, maybe proselytize a bit! Ifyou construct an attractive landscape primarily from native plants, you will have begun the process of educating your neighbours’ eyes to associate beauty and wildlife with natives. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My field provides refuge from mower blades, food and nesting cover for some birds.

Take ownership of the process

We could become active in the community and adopt a species, such as the monarch butterfly. The more food provided in the form of milkweed plants, the greater the number of monarchs produced. We could adopt any number of plant and bird species with declining populations.

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