Sunday, April 14, 2013

Counting Down to Earth Day 2013: 4.14.13

Welcome to Day 5 of my Counting Down to Earth Day 2013 challenge in which I continue the theme of growing things, with a suggestion for anyone with a backyard, or with planting privileges in a garden or community green space.

Today’s Tip: When you plant, GO NATIVE!

It was in Master Gardening Class that I first encountered Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, by Douglas W. Tallamy. I am not exaggerating when I say it’s one of the most important books I have ever read.

[Sidebar: What is a Native Plant? A native (or indigenous) plant occurs naturally in a particular region, state, ecosystem, and habitat without direct or indirect human actions.] 

Tallamy, a scientist and gardener, introduces the premise that “all plants are not created equal, particularly in their ability to support wildlife. Most of our native plant-eaters are not able to eat alien plants, and we are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate…” The central message of Tallamy’s book is that we must restore native plants in order to maintain the ecosystems on which we ourselves depend. Read this book. 

Even better, use it as an inspiration for your next landscaping project. Appendix One is a regional guide of native trees, herbaceous perennials, grasses, ferns and vines and their attributes. Appendix B addresses the decline in the Lepidoptera population, listing the host plants for scores of butterflies and moths.

A more recent guide for plants that will repopulate your yard with pollinators is The Non-Stop Garden: A Step-by-Step Guide to Smart Plant Choices and Four-Season Designs, by Stephanie Cohen and Jennifer Benner. I had an opportunity to hear Jennifer speak at the recent CT Master Gardeners’ Symposium. Her book is on my wish list, but I confess I have not read it yet. 

There is an added bonus for the gardener who decides to Go Native. As Tallamy states in his book, “Native plants are well adapted to their particular ecological niche and are often far less difficult to grow than species from other altitudes, latitudes, and habitats.”

Come back tomorrow for a new tip as we count down to Earth Day on April 22.

Love Your Mother (Earth). Pass it on. Together we can make a difference. Yes, we can!

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