We live in an age when the cultivation of plant-life is at an all-time high. Farming, ranching, and recent trends in urban development are just 3 ways in which humanity has taken charge of how and where plant-life can grow. There are a number of positive consequences to the gardening technologies we’ve developed: more efficient food production, increased green spaces in cities, among others.
By contrast, though, there are just as many drawbacks. One of these is a decrease in the success of native plant life to flourish. Native plant life — as compared to plant life introduced to a region strictly for agricultural or horticultural purposes — takes far fewer resources (like artificial light, water, and fertilizer) to maintain. In fact, once established in the soil, a species that’s native to its environment can almost always survive on the natural elements alone because they are already adapted to those environmental conditions.
Here are just a few steps (provided by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at UT Austin) you can take to encourage natural plant life to grow in your backyard:
Assess the Land You’re Working
Take note of sun exposure/shade, plants cropping up that you didn’t plant (probably weeds, but could also tip you off to a native species), soil types, and water supply (where water drains, where it pools).
Prepare the Soil
Start by eradicating weed populations. Solarization is a preferred method, which involves watering the weedy soil and then covering it with clear plastic (opaque plastic will not work). This produces a high temperature under the plastic, high enough to eradicate the invasive plants and, more importantly, their seeds. The drawback of solarization: it needs a few months to ensure effectiveness. If you have chosen truly native species to plant, no further soil preparation should be required.
What plants are native to your area (LBJWC has a helpful database)? Check your local nurseries for either plants or seeds. The more you request native plant species at your local nursery, the sooner they will catch on and begin carrying more of a native variety. Be sure to investigate what species grow cooperatively, in which are competitive for soil and nutrients. When planting, consider a natural landscape layout (as opposed to rows of plants) to help promote the concept of “natural gardening.” KEEP IN MIND: Even though you’re using native species, it can still take a few years for the garden to establish itself, maintenance free. Keep weeding and watering in order to foster successful growth in your garden. Eventually, the plants will flourish and take care of themselves!
Remember, you don’t need to look far to find gorgeous plant-life. The more we encourage plants native to our neighborhoods, the sooner we will find ourselves surrounding by a natural landscape that is sustainable as well as beautiful.
For more on wildflowers, check out these helpful resources from Menasha Ridge Press!