An open lawn, strands of bright green grass cut very short, is the traditional hallmark of a well-kept yard.
It can also be misguided.
Lawns are one of the largest crops in the United States, accounting for about 40 million acres of land in the lower 48. For wildlife, including the most important pollinators, this essentially represents dismantled habitat. And maintaining a lawn requires immense amounts of water – amounts that may not be available during times of drought.
All of this has prompted homeowners to turn to native plants.
A National Wildlife Federation survey found that about 14% of American adults purchased a plant native to where they live in 2019. And about 9% converted at least part of their lawn into a natural landscape of wild flowers.
“The good thing about native vegetation is that it comes from here and is adapted to our local conditions, and it’s been that way for longer than we’ve been here,” said Bre Bauerly. , habitat specialist at Minnesota Native Landscapes, an ecological restoration company. business.
Native plants can withstand even extreme weather fluctuations, such as drought, harsh winters and extreme rainfall, she said. While providing useful habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
âThey kind of experienced it all in terms of growing conditions,â Bauerly added.
How to get started with native planting
Check out Bring Me The News’s three-part guide to creating your own home garden:
- Site preparation and space definition
- Sunlight, soil and other factors
- Suggestions for plant species to get started
Because they are so well adapted to local conditions, native plants generally do not need as much water or fertilizer as non-native ornamentals. They are also generally more resistant to diseases and pests.
This means that a garden owner, in the long run, uses less water, spends less money, and even does less work.
But the benefits go beyond the practical, to what Julia Vanatta described as “the unexpected joys of gardening with native plants.”
âWe think we’re going there for whatever reason,â said Vanatta, 70. Water conservation, a nice garden, just the feeling of doing “the right thing”.
“But then you find out little weird things, like you start to notice bugs that you’ve never seen before. You start to notice bees and butterflies. You start to notice birds eating seed heads.” , she explained.
Vanatta, who started the Native Plants Gardens Facebook group in the Midwest and is on the Wild Ones Twin Cities education committee, said she always marveled at visitors to her Minneapolis garden.
âYou don’t understand until you actually get something in the ground and feel that joy,â she said.
If you want to turn part of your existing lawn or garden into an area with native plants, you don’t need to go all the way.
âI always say you can’t start too small,â Bauerly said. “If all you did was add 36 plants to an existing perennial bed, you’re still doing something impactful for the habitat and for the value of the pollinators.”