If we take a good hard look at most residential landscapes today, we will find in most cases a sterile plant environment: a cultivated landscape filled with exotic plant species from other parts of the planet.
Recent studies are beginning to show us that many insects rely on native plants to survive. Insects require the plants that accompanied them on their evolutionary journey. Native insects and birds cannot, for the most part, survive on alien plants. This high number of non-native plants in the landscape is creating an environment where many insects may be headed toward extinction. The recent decline in pollinating insects has fruit growers concerned.
For the first time in history gardeners and the gardening decisions we make in our yards can play an important role in managing and sustaining our local wildlife populations. To create a backyard ecosystem with a diversity of insect and animal species, we first have to establish a healthy diversity with native plants. We should look at our yard as a ‘Habitat Island Sanctuary’ where wildlife has a place to hide and eat. By planting a wide variety of native plants that have adapted to our backyard environment, we can create an ecosystem that will not only sustain itself, but also sustain a wide variety of insects and animals as well.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Create densely planted gardens rather than individual plants surrounded by islands of mulch.
- Don’t remove leaf litter. It’s free mulch, free fertilizer, free weed control, free soil amendment, and a great soil conditioner.
- Create sustainable plant communities by planting a wide variety of native trees, shrubs, and perennials that have adapted to our unique environment.
If every one of us did our part and planted a “Habitat Island Sanctuary” in our yard, think about the possibilities of it connecting each yard and every community coast to coast. I dare you to give it a try!