Get started with sustainable landscaping

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A backyard. Illustrated | Getty Images

Do you want to make your garden a welcoming place for birds and insects, or are you looking to reduce watering? Consider going green, adopting native plants and investing in sustainable landscaping. Here’s everything you need to know:

What is Sustainable Landscaping?

CalRecycle describes sustainable landscaping as “the practice of using multiple strategies to create an environmentally friendly, climate-adapted landscape” that “provides immediate benefits to local communities, while protecting the environment and nurturing birds, bees and wildlife” . This type of landscaping conserves water, improves soil health, reduces yard maintenance time and creates habitat. One example is xeriscaping – the practice of using low-growing, drought-tolerant plants in landscaping to conserve water and reduce the amount of yard waste.

Why is it important to use native plants in my garden?

To be considered a native plant, it must occur “naturally in a particular region, ecosystem, or habitat without human introduction”. says the National Wildlife Federation. Native plants thrive in the soil and weather conditions of their native region and have formed symbiotic relationships with local wildlife, making them essential for maintaining biodiversity. As Audobon explains, research by entomologist Doug Tallamy found that native oak trees can host more than 500 species of caterpillars, while gingkos – trees often used in landscaping and native to Asia – can only support five species of caterpillars. caterpillars. You can use the National Wildlife Federation website native plant researcher to determine the best plants for your garden.

Monarch butterflies are now endangered, what can I plant to help them?

Turn your garden into a butterfly sanctuary by plant native milkweeds of the region. Female monarchs lay their eggs on these plants, and their flowers also provide nectar for butterflies and bees. Milkweeds are native to most of the continental United States except for western Washington and northwestern Oregon.

What about bees? How can I attract them to my garden?

Bees are attracted to most flowering plants, Jennifer Knutson, Master Gardener at the University of Minnesota Extension, says: especially those with blue and yellow flowers (they are also attracted to purple, white and pink). So that bees don’t have to worry about finding nectar and pollen, be sure to choose native plants that bloom at different times of the season. Bees flock to gardens with at least 10 species of flowering plants, Knutson says, so plant a variety close together.

To ensure the bees have access to water, fill a shallow birdbath with rocks and a small amount of water. The bees can land on the stones and drink without fear of drowning. Knutson says if you don’t have a birdbath, fill a large saucer with a quarter inch of sand, add a few rocks, and put enough water so that it rises a quarter inch around it. sand. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so change the water at least twice a week.

What are some easy ways to save water in my garden?

Replace your lawn with low-growing ground cover plants or try a plant-based lawn, which is more drought tolerant and won’t require much mowing – this is also useful for combating air pollution caused by gasoline-powered outdoor equipment. If you go this route, spruce up the area with permeable pavers, which allow water to flow into the ground (as opposed to concrete pavers, which collect water that collects or runs off). You can also purchase rain barrels that collect rainwater, which can later be used to water plants in your garden. If you can’t get rid of your lawn yet, let it sleep over the summer, Better homes and gardens suggests, and don’t water it.

Switching from traditional grass and watering systems to native plants and drip irrigation systems really makes a difference. In nine years, Susanne Jett, a landscape designer in Santa Monica, California, collected data from two gardens and found the one with a lawn and sprinklers used 703,813 gallons of water, while the other with low-water native plants and a drip irrigation system only used 130,438 gallons of water. water, while also providing habitat for birds and insects.

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