PAST EVENT: “Less Lawn, More Life”
Merikay Smith, of the Master Gardeners Speakers Bureau and the Muddy Branch Alliance board, described the process of converting her lawn into a native plant habitat that supports a diverse array of wildlife. Her neighbor joined in, converting parts of their lawn too.
She recommends starting by assessing what you have already – is it native or not, is it a non-native invasive or not? Take out the non-native invasives first! Some other elements of a habitat to incorporate are:
–Plant a full stand of a native – too little and birds who are attracted to nest near it are unable to feed their young for lack of food (chicks don’t eat seed, they eat caterpillars or other insects, so plant enough so there’s insects to feed the brood.)
–Put a water source – can be a simple dish you pour out and replenish every few days.
–Make changes by starting with the corners, and then the edges of your property.
–Start in a corner(s) by planting a native tree – these are the circles on a plan. Oaks are superstars. For example, a Black Jack Oak supports 500+ species of insects
–Then connect the circles with beds along the edges.
–Site prep – build beds by covering a lawn area with cardboard, then compost and mulch, in the fall. Don’t dig!
–Fully research the species / cultivars you plan to plant since many seem native (with “virginiana” in the name, for example) but aren’t genetically native and a host for local insects.
–Get recommendations by zip code through the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder and the Audubon Society’s Plants for Birds.
–Focus on keystone plants – those that sustain the food web of plants-insects-birds:
Keystone trees: White Oaks are superstars; Native Cherries, Native Willows, Native Birches, Cottonwoods, Elms
Keystone herbaceous plants: Native Goldenrods, Asters, and Sunflowers.