There are many resources available to help you restore and manage your property to maximize its benefits for native plants and wildlife: a diversity of birds, butterflies and mammals are just waiting to visit once you get things in order!
Invasive plant management
The most common problem that you are likely to encounter is invasive plant species: buckthorn, garlic mustard, multiflora rose, and a host of others are commonly found on properties that are not managed. (And even on those that are managed, but usually in smaller numbers!)
Non-native, invasive plant species crowd out native species and ultimately reduce biodiversity. In the case of oak woods, for example, shrubs like buckthorn and honeysuckle grow quickly and shade-out the oak seedlings. This has led to the near absence of oak regeneration in many local woodlands.
There are many contractors in the area who are hired by private landowners to help them with invasive plant management as well as other land restoration projects. Click here for a list of some of the companies in the region that landowners can hire to help with restoration of their properties.
In some cases, TLC is able to help landowners secure resources to help them restore their land. Check out this article for more information: TLC Connects Landowners with Funding.
Common Invasive Species in McHenry County is a resource directory of invasive plant management guides from a variety of Illinois and Wisconsin agencies that was compiled to help landowners access the information they need to tackle invasive and nuisance plants on their land.
Manage your water
Perhaps the greatest natural resource available to any property owner is the water that falls from the sky as rain and snow. For many years, the dominant thinking has treated water runoff as a waste product - something to get rid of as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In more recent years, people have realized that the fresh, clean water that falls from the sky is a valuable resource. By slowing it down and helping it infiltrate into the ground where it falls, we help reduce the need for and expense of irrigation while helping to replenish the groundwater we rely upon for our drinking water.
- Use a rainbarrel. TLC sells rain barrels each spring, and occasionally has extras available during other times of the year for purchase.
- Install a raingarden.
Use native plant species
Native plants are beautiful, versatile and - once established - virtually maintenance-free. These plants, like the purple coneflowers pictured here, develop deep roots that tap moisture several feet deep in the soil, so require very little water -even during drought conditions.
During the first year after planting, the native perennials should be watered each week to ensure that they develop a good root system, but once they have settled in to a location, they should take care of themselves.
Natives, like other perennials, typically follow the pattern of "first year they sleep, 2nd year they creep, and 3rd year they leap." By the fourth year, you are likely to find yourself splitting clumps to give them to your neighbors or to start plantings in other parts of your garden.
Another benefit that these plants provide is they attract native birds and butterflies. Maybe not the first year or two while the plants are getting established, but before long you'll start seeing monarchs feeding on the milkweed, swallowtails at the Joe Pye weed, and goldfinches hopping from flower to flower eating the seeds. (They seem especially fond of cup plant flowers!)
Looking for someone to help you design your first native plant garden? Click here to contact The WPPC (Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee) about their mentoring program where they match mentors with people looking to learn about incorporating native plants into their landscape.