I love landscaping and creating beautiful outdoor living spaces. Who doesn’t? It’s so easy to get plants from all over the world these days that many people forget about some of the native plants that are equally beautiful. Plants native to your area are better suited for growing and can also offer many added benefits to your yard and farm.
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Adding Native Plants to Your Landscape Has Never Been Easier
It’s never been easier to purchase plants to landscape with or use for food production.
Many people often notice the new exotic flowering plants that their neighbor has. These exotic plants are often the first ones chosen but more people need to consider native plants.
Just because you purchase native plants doesn’t mean that you are going to miss out on beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers. Many native plants offer gorgeous blooms, showy foliage and a natural beauty that can’t be overlooked.
As I mentioned before, it has never been easier to purchase native plants so your options are wide open, even if you are looking only at native plants.
There are many benefits to adding native plants to your farm.
Native plants are adapted to the environment in which you live, so they are less prone to dying because of drought, extreme temperature fluctuations, disease and pests. These native plants are also going to bring in beneficial wildlife to your farm.
Let’s look closer at some of the benefits native plants have to offer.
Highly Suited to Growing
Plants native to your area are highly adapted to the growing conditions there.
Environments can vary tremendously from changes in air humidity, rainfall, seasons, temperature fluctuations and soil types.
A plant that is well suited for growing in a dry, hot environment will not survive well in an area that receives frequent rainfall and has frequent cold temperatures.
When you choose native plants, you are choosing plants that are best suited for the growing environment that you live in. This in return means that you will experience faster growth from your plants.
Plants that aren’t native will have to use extra energy just to survive and fight the conditions that they are not suited for, so they will tend to grow slower or have stunted growth.
You’ll also have to do less maintenance with native plants.
Most of them, once established, will survive and thrive well on their own without much intervention or help from you. You’ll also have to replace them less frequently because you won’t experience the high loss rates that you may see with a non-native species.
Native plant species will also require less watering once they are established.
They are adapted to surviving with the rainfall that is expected in your area. This means that once they get going, you can spend your time doing tasks other than watering!
Disease and Pest Resistance
Pests and disease are often causes of plant losses when we look at non-native species.
Non-native plants may not be equipped to handle pests and disease found in the environment.
This means that they may either have stunted growth or die. In order to prevent that, we can treat them with chemicals, which is not healthy for the surrounding environment or us.
Native plants don’t have that problem.
They are well suited to combat those diseases and pests since they have evolved ways to cope with those problems and still thrive.
Even though native plants are resistant to disease and pests, they can still catch illnesses. Make sure that you are prepared for plant illnesses. You’ll also have to feed native plants less as they are suited to the growing conditions you have. Be prepared to feed your plants properly to get them off to a strong start.
Non-native species also bear the threat of bringing unwanted disease and pests with them.
If you plant trees that are non-native and they have a hidden disease or pest, they can spread that to the surrounding plants. The native trees may not be able to handle the foreign disease or pest.
Therefore, not only are non-native plants not suited to handling the diseases or pests, but they could also bring potentially harmful disease or pests with them.
Soil and Water Conservation
Soil and water conservation is critical.
For many years, farmers plowed, tilled, fertilized and ‘managed’ the soil in ways that was harmful. We’ve learned since then that these practices aren’t necessarily the best and can damage delicate ecosystems. Dust Bowl, anyone?
We can use these native plants to help properly take care of the soil since they are well suited to growing and thriving in the soil and water conditions of their environment.
Native plants develop root systems that work the best for the soil type of that environment. Root systems of plants play a major role in keeping soil in place.
This goes for native grasses, flowers and shrubs all the way up to large trees. They all work to keep the soil where it needs to be.
Another way to ensure that your soil doesn’t erode is plasticulture. Plasticulture has many benefits also. I personally use plasticulture in my flowerbeds as a way to prevent weed growth and promote plant growth.
The National Resources Conservation Service does a lot of research with soil conservation. Recent NRCS research has shown that native plants benefit conservation efforts and support wildlife populations.
Keeping the soil in place prevents it from entering the air or water.
It also allows the soil to become more fertile by remaining in place longer. This is helpful when you are working to create fertile soil for growing crops or raising animals.
Native plants are also well suited to catch excess water. Excess water can have chemicals or extra nutrients in it that could be harmful if they reached water supplies that people or animals drink from.
It’s not uncommon to see large row crop fields surrounded by a border of trees, shrubs or grasses. Farmers do this to catch some of the fertilizer runoff from those fields and keeping it in place and out of the water supply or river systems.
Native plants will attract beneficial insects and animals to your property. These animals can offer pest control and help to pollinate your flowers or crops.
Unless you’ve been completely out of the loop for the past several years, you’re probably aware that there is a huge concern about the declining populations of bees.
The Audubon has an excellent article about why native plants matter. The Audubon is a leader in wildlife and bird research.
Planting native shrubs, flowers and trees will attract some of the native bees and pollinators. This will not only benefit the populations of pollinators, but your plants will benefit from their presence as well.
North Carolina State University also has an article about the benefits of having native plants in your landscape.
Native plants will attract birds to your farm also.
Many species of birds will eat pests and insects that can be harmful to you, your animals or your garden. This means that you will be able to decrease the amount of chemical pesticides that you use on your farm. Any time that you can reduce chemical use you should.
Many studies haven proven that viewing wildlife to be stress relieving. The plants and animals on your farm benefit from the added wildlife present. You will, too.
It is soothing to watch hummingbirds or butterflies hard at work on beautiful flowering plants in your yard.
Adding Native Plants Will Provide You With Many Benefits
At the end of the day, the benefits that native plants can offer far outweigh the potential problems or risks that you are taking when you add non-native plants to your farm.
You’ll see an increase in growth and plant vigor, a decrease in the maintenance that you have to do as well as a decrease in the amount of losses that you will experience. Not to mention the increase of beneficial wildlife that will be present on your farm.
Think about adding native grasses to your farm or landscape also. There are so many benefits of native grasses and plants that it would be silly not to consider it!
So this spring, when you are deciding which plants you want to add to your landscaping, why not add some native species?
What species are native to your area? How do you incorporate them? I’d love to know!
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