It’s that time of year to make your resolutions for 2015. Don’t forget to include your landscape! Here are 20 resolutions to get you started toward a healthier ecosystem:
1) Reduce or eliminate the “Green Desert” (turf/lawn).
Exotic turf grass is an ecological wasteland. When replacing lawn, don’t replace one monoculture with another. Plant diversely using regionally appropriate native plants.
2) Increase the health of your soil.
Everything starts with the soil: healthy soil makes for healthy plants. Do a soil test to know what your baseline is. Then, work with the native soil you have. Trying to reinvent your native soil is an endless and losing battle. In many landscapes, compost will be the key to increasing soil health.
3) Avoid synthetic pesticides.
Rachel Carson warned about them 50 years ago in her book, Silent Spring. Not good for wildlife, not good for you and your family.
4) Limit the use of organic pesticides.
Use organic pesticides only when absolutely necessary, and then, sparingly and carefully. Organic does not mean benign.
5) Support beneficial insects, nature’s pest control.
Plant a diversity of native plants to support beneficial insects with both habitat and food sources. Encourage the local populations of beneficial insects – imported insects can introduce new diseases.
6) Tolerate some messiness in your landscape to support wildlife.
Dead logs, tree snags, leaf litter and brush piles are homes for many creatures. Dead leaves are nature’s mulch and compost – leave leaves in place as much as possible.
7) Tolerate some plant damage in your landscape.
Valuable insects have to eat too, and they don’t eat very much. If you like to see butterflies, then you need to sacrifice some leaves of the host plants their caterpillars require. “Perfect is the enemy of good.” (Voltaire).
8) Leave flowering perennials and native grasses standing through winter.
They can provide food and cover for many overwintering birds and insects.
9) Plant more native plants to support your local ecosystem.
Native plants have co-evolved with each other and with the wildlife around them. Some creatures have very specific interactions with a limited number of native plants. Plant diversely, or lose valuable species.
10) Think “plant communities” when selecting plants.
Native plants don’t grow in isolation. Learn which plants grow together naturally in your region, and plant that way.
11) Eradicate or reduce the exotic invasive plants in your landscape.
Always try organic, mechanical means first when removing invasive plants. Be persistent and be patient.
12) When invasive plants are removed, replace them quickly and thickly with plants that are native to your region and appropriate to your site. Competition is the key to suppressing invasive plants.
13) Limit the use of exotic, ornamental plants and know their limitations.
Plants that have not evolved in your region will not provide the same depth of ecological services to your ecosystem.
14) Encourage biodiversity by planting diversely.
Bio-diverse ecosystems are more resilient to pests, diseases and climate change.
15) Select natural forms of native plants for best ecosystem dynamics.
Cultivars that vary greatly in form from a native plant may not offer the same resources – a columnar selection of a native tree may have branching that deters birds and other wildlife.
16) Avoid double-flowered plants.
Double-flowered plants often have less nectar, pollen, and seed than single-flowered plants, or may be completely sterile.
17) Provide a water source for wildlife and insects.
A clean water source is crucial for wildlife but often forgotten many landscapes. Think “wildlife ramp” not “deep water dive.”
18) Emulate healthy local natural areas in your garden.
Use nature as your reference for structure and plant selection – it will make for a much healthier ecosystem.
19) Always plant the right plant in the right place.
Some plants are flexible about where they are planted, but many are not. Proper plant placement will promote plant health and help deter pests and diseases.
20) When choosing plants, find the beauty in ecological function.
As Mom said: “physical beauty is only skin deep.”
Happy New Year from Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!
Photo: Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) with happy pollinators
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