Plants that are native to your area will grow well in your garden, almost guaranteed, without fussing and worrying. By cutting down on water, pesticides, and fertilizers you save both money and the environment.
Native plants benefit both you and your garden because they work with your climate, your soil, and your water supply. Plants not suited for your area require a time-consuming maintenance program often using harmful chemicals and large quantities of water.
As an example, native groundcovers are a great alternative to a lawn and will often stay green through the driest summer months without much watering. Many native plants will enrich the soil by giving in return for what they take, and rarely need fertilizing.
By choosing plants that grow in your area, you also help preserve the local ecosystem. Invasive weeds are a problem in most parts of the country, taking over and reducing biodiversity. Native plants on the other hand benefit birds, butterflies, and other native wildlife large or small.
The most interesting gardens can be built from careful landscaping and choosing native plants. Many nurseries across the nation are carrying the same selection of roses, while local plants are often only found within your own area. A simple walk in a natural setting will give you many ideas for what can be incorporated in your garden.
Benefits of native plants are many, but here is a short list:
Reduced cost and time spend on landscape maintenance and development.
Reduced soil erosion.
Prevents invasive weeds.
No need for pesticides and fertilizers.
Attract birds, butterflies, and other native animals.
Originality, beauty, and diversity.
Natural fertilization of soil by many native plants.
Overall better soil quality.
Better on the gardener’s back and knees due to less time weeding.
The first step to native plants is recognizing which ones they are. Depending on where you live, your local municipality may have additional information. Visit local nursery stores, especially organically oriented stores. There you will find both answers to your questions as well as a selection of available plants. Other sources of information include universities with agricultural or botanical programs, local botanical gardens and farmers markets, and of course the internet.
To support your selection of native plants, pay careful attention to your landscaping plan and the best locations for each plant. Make sure to take the additional time to configure drainage, shade versus sun, and the composition of your soil. In return you will see your garden blossom year after year with relatively little effort.
By year two of your new native garden, you can sit back and enjoy it all summer long while your neighbors fuss with lawn mowers and fertilizers. If you enjoy tinkering in the garden as I do, native plants open up new opportunities for constant tweaking and improvement. You will finally have time for those picky plants you don’t want to give up, and for all those little do-it-yourself projects that native gardens inspire.