I still have some trepidation about how this Spring plays out. I think April and May should be watched carefully. These folks seem to know what they are doing. You might ask them.
Native Plants are Naturally Nifty!
Have you heard the buzz about native plants? Native plants are the topic of many magazine & newspaper articles, garden shows, seminars… etc. So why is everyone talking about natives?
Natives make sense! Native plants “grew up” in Illinois. From our soils to our weather, plants that are native to Illinois do more than tolerate our conditions…. they seem to enjoy it!
Since they enjoy our climate and soils they can grow vigorously and fight off most disease organisms and fungal pathogens. This means that you, the gardeners, don’t have to spray them with fertilizers, insecticides or fungicides.
Another benefit to their Illinois heritage is that our native critters, butterflies, birds, bees, etc recognize them as a food source! You might say… ahhh….I don’t want critters eating my new plants…. well, yes you do! Allow me to explain.. once a native plant is established, it can tolerate feeding from our native critters with no problem. For example: a Swamp Milkweek (Asclepias incarnata) can be nearly defoliated by monarch caterpillars- and it’s ok! The plant is no worse for the wear!
Healthy insect populations = healthier food chain. Insects are kind of like the bottom of the natural food pyramid. Many animals, birds and reptiles depend on insect protein for food. When insect populations are not healthy, neither are the populations of certain birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
Healthy plant and animal populations = healthy food chain = cleaner water = cleaner air= healthier humans.
You might be thinking… what does any of this have to do with me and my yard….well- you’re yard is or should be an ecosystem! We have modified 95-97% of the land in the lower 48 states… 42% (approximately) of that land in in agriculture, and approximately 54% of that land is in suburbia. This is where we come in… the gardener. Our backyard gardens have never been more powerful than, more needed, than they are today.
Our “natural” areas are over-run with invasive plant materials like Russian Olive, Japanese Honeysuckle, Garlic Mustard, Tree of Heaven, multiflora rose, crown vetch, tall fescue, and the list goes on. If you would like to see a complete listing of INVASIVE PLANTS check out the Missouri Botanic Garden website.
Go there and read. More next week.