Displaying items by tag: native plants
Congrats to Carol Giammattei on becoming TLC’s 200th participating [email protected] property!
It’s the five-year anniversary of TLC’s [email protected] program!
It is iconic. The American lawn: green, neatly cut and free of any plant but grass. No violets. No clover. Definitely no dandelions!
It ranks right up there with motherhood, baseball and apple pie as a symbol of America. Think of those lush, green golf courses in the deserts out west, or the photos of Phoenix transplants from the Midwest with lawns. The American lawn is more than a stereotype – it is an expensive addiction.
I read this great article about how native plants can help reduce mosquito populations by attracting more of the critters that eat them! I saw it on the blog for a company based in Idaho called Conservation Seeding & Restoration. Rather than trying to rewrite a great piece, I present it here in its entirety! Their blog is excellent, by the way, and I highly recommend checking it out here.
Mosquitoes. The pesky insects don’t just bite; they can spread disease. CSR’s answer? Install native plants to attract mosquito predators! Dragonflies, various birds and bats are all wonderful mosquito-eaters that we can attract using native plants.
Western Coneflower, Sunflower and Owl’s Claws are three great draws for small birds. Cattails and bulrushes attract dragonflies and other mosquito-eating insects. You can add dense shrubs that provide cover for birds and mosquito-eating insects such as Sagebrush and Rabbitbrush, and food such as Golden Currant, Chokecherry and Serviceberry…just to name a few!
The addition of bird houses and trees for nesting are also beneficial. You can attract chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, blackbirds, jays, woodpeckers and indigo buntings by filling your bird feeder with sunflower seeds and safflower.
A birdbath is also a good method for attracting birds. Birds are naturally attracted by dripping water. If you are shopping for a birdbath, try to find one that has a fountain or some type of running water -which will also prevent it from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Lets not forget about bats! Each night, one bat will consume thousands of insects – including mosquitoes. Attracting bats to your yard is as simple as placing a bat house. For best results, bat houses should not be placed in a secluded corner. However, bat houses need to receive at least six hours of sunlight each day. Suspend two houses back to back on a pole about twenty feet off the ground. One house should be painted a light color, and the other one needs to be painted a dark color. The light color house should face the northwest and the dark colored house towards the southeast. This will help enable the bats to switch houses as the climate changes.
By making a few changes in your landscape, you can control those pesky mosquitoes -naturally!
Spring arrived late this year, and with it came the weekend drone of lawnmowers. Many an otherwise perfect Sunday afternoon nap has been shattered by a neighbor’s noisy grass trimming machine.
And for what? To do it all over again in seven days.
Over the years, I have had neighbors who pay a service to come out and fertilize their lawns and treat them with an herbicide that kills everything save the grass. I’ve also heard people complain about their high water bills during the summer when without constant water, the lawn might turn brown.
One upside of last summer’s drought was that more people let their lawns go dormant, and went weeks at a time without mowing.
The grasses that comprise the typical American lawn – Kentucky bluegrass and various fescues – are referred to as “cool season” grasses for a reason. They prefer cool and moist conditions like one expects in the spring.
Most of the grasses in American lawns were imported from Europe. Early settlers found grasses native to the Colonies were less desirable for grazing by the livestock that were brought along from Europe.
Picture the British and northern European countryside with sheep grazing on lush green meadows. Now, imagine the weather – cool summers, mild winters and plenty of rain.
Then, think about a typical July day in McHenry County: sunny, hot, humid, dry. Hardly ideal conditions for plants that like it moist and cool!
So, the first problem with the typical lawn is that the grass species aren’t right for our climate, and require large amounts of water and fertilizer to stay lush and green during the summer. The next problem arises from over-fertilization of lawns in residential areas.
Applying too much fertilizer too often is not only bad for the health of one’s lawn, but it will also have a negative impact on the water quality of local rivers and streams. Excess fertilizer (that which is not needed by the plants) will run-off with the storm water, which eventually arrives in a local creek.
A third concern related to lawn maintenance is air pollution. A Swedish study conducted in 2001 concluded, “Air pollution from cutting grass for an hour with a gasoline powered lawn mower is about the same as that from a 100-mile automobile ride.” The small engine of a gas-powered lawn mower is very inefficient, and lawn mowing in the US has been estimated to account for up to five percent of air pollution in this country. New mowers are more efficient than older models, but a better alternative is to replace the gas mower with an electric model. Not only do they emit zero air pollution, they are quiet.
Quiet enough that they will not spoil a good nap!
There are alternatives to the lawn. Beds of native plants, for example, are not only beautiful, but also easy to maintain. Native species can be found for any growing condition.
Got shade? Try hazelnuts, wild ginger, Virginia bluebells and wild geraniums. Wet area? Nannyberry viburnum, river birch, sedges and Golden Alexanders are some species to consider. And for those hot, dry spots, I like New England aster, Compass plant, black-eyed Susan and Prairie coreopsis.
Before buying any new plants for one’s yard, check to make sure that the species chosen are not invasive in this area. The Chicago Botanic Garden maintains a handy guide to invasive plants that includes suggestions for alternatives.