Garden As Habitat
A Different Way of Thinking about Gardening
It's important to understand a few things about using native plants in your landscape. Native plants provide either food or habitat for wildlife.
You might find some nibbling or browsing on leaves. Some people have enough garden space that some damage is permissible. In smaller spaces, the damage might ruin the appearance of the garden. In these instances we might do some intervention. Where there is an abundance of hungry herbivores, we will either protect young plants until they can handle some browsing and/or plant non-native, non-invasive xeric plants such as lavender, ornamental yuccas, etc. (which wildlife find less palatable).
On branches, you may find some galls. In stems of plants you might find larva. On leaves you might find eggs. In the ground, you may find tiny holes, which are most likely native bee homes. We've also found quail nesting in grasses.
Our soils tend to be alkaline; however, in flood plain areas, more neutral. The plants we install are suited for our soils. We don't use a lot of fertilizers or soil additives because of this. In projects where we remove the lawn, we tend to find the soil in poor health. Healthy soils are very complex and full of activity. We like to get the ball rolling on restoring this activity by inoculating the new plants with mycorrhizae. Once the plants start blooming, native bees come to nest, creating aeration, and it might sound funny, but their micro poop helps the soil!
We also tend to leave the soil bare after planting. This encourages native bees, which prefer bare ground for their homes. It also allows native mosses to become established and crust to form. This will help keep weeds out.
We only plant in the spring or the fall. Harsh summer conditions can be too stressful. We watch nature's cues for plants' life cycles to dictate when we do our work: when they grow, flower, and then go to seed.