Our environment has never been more fragile, but our traditional approach to landscaping has escalated the problem. A landscape is more than a combination of trees, shrubs and perennials it’s complex system where all living things are connected. Landscaping with an ecological approach contributes to species diversity, attracting and supporting the crashing populations of birds, butterflies, pollinators, and beneficial insects.
To help change the way we create and manage our landscapes, I founded EcoBeneficial LLC (www.ecobeneficial.com). Here are 10 of my tips for creating a landscape that improves environmental health:
1) Reduce your “Green Desert” (lawn/turf), it is an ecological wasteland. Keep only the lawn that you really use and manage it organically. Replace the rest with native plants.
2) Increase the health of your soil, which makes for healthy plants. Ditch the leaf blowers, leave leaves in place, and disturb your soil as little as possible, especially when it is wet. Leaves and compost will help increase the fertility and health of your soil.
3) Avoid synthetic pesticides - they take a devastating toll on our environment, and many are dangerous to humans and pets. Rachel Carson warned us 60 years ago in “Silent Spring,” but we haven’t yet learned the lesson. Even organic pesticides are not benign.
4) Use native plants to attract and support nature’s pest control - beneficial insects that are “natural enemies.” A healthy ecosystem is full of insects – 90% or more of which are either beneficial or benign.
5) Tolerate some plant damage in your landscape. Valuable insects, like butterfly and moth caterpillars, must eat, and they don’t eat very much. Tolerate some messiness in your landscape to support wildlife. Dead logs, tree snags and brush piles are homes for many creatures.
6) Plant more native plants to support your local ecosystem. Native plants have co-evolved with each other and with the wildlife around them. Without native plants, some species cannot survive or thrive.
7) Eradicate or reduce the invasive plants in your landscape. When invasive plants are removed, replace them quickly and thickly with regional native plants. Competition is key to suppressing an onslaught of more invasive plants.
8) Leave native flowering perennials and grasses standing through winter and into early spring. They provide food and cover for wildlife, including habitat for many invertebrates that are suffering astronomical declines (yes, there really is an insect apocalypse).
9) Encourage biodiversity by planting diversely. Bio-diverse ecosystems are more resilient to pests, diseases, and the impacts of climate change. Focus on native plants; nonnative plants do not provide the same breadth of ecological functions.
10) When choosing plants, find the beauty in what plants do, not just how they look. Native plants do much more than look good – they provide appropriate nectar, pollen, seed, fruit, nuts, caterpillar food, nesting sites, and much more.
For more tips and services visit www.ecobeneficial.com. Learn about landscaping for pollinators in my book, The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening.