Another reason to add native plants to your West Michigan yard

Another reason to add native plants to your West Michigan yard

Native plants' root system

The root system of native plants are far deeper than usual turf grass. They provide stabilization of the soil from erosion and runoff, thus improving water quality. (Illustration source: www.vanburencd.org.)

The reasons to incorporate native plants into your yard are numerous:

  • Supporting native animal and insect populations
  • Their long root systems prevent erosion and runoff
  • They are formed by our climate, and thus more tolerable of weather extremes
  • Variety of native plants allow for blooming and numerous colors throughout the growing season

I’m here to pitch another reason for natives…

 

Easy does it

My wife and I bought our house in the summer of 2008, and started planting natives the following year. We removed bushes in the front of the house, but other than that we had a relatively blank canvas of lawn and a few scattered trees.

I was really interested in getting native plants into our landscape, but didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. And therein is my pitch – getting native plants into your yard is easy and it’s a great learning opportunity!

Most of the plants that have made it through the transfer – I wouldn’t recommend planting in a July drought and then leave home for a week – have lasted, and continue to come up year after year. Once established, natives tend to thrive and last years without much, if any maintenance.

I attended several native plant sales including the Calvin College sale and the Muskegon Conservation District sale. All of the plants are usually labeled with the amount of sun they like, whether they like it sunny or shady (or both), how high they get, and when and what color they bloom. The organizations running the sales are both really knowledgeable and really nice, even to newbies to the native plant scene.

 

Every little bit helps

Doug Tallamy notes in his book Bringing Nature Home, that even a little a modest increase in native habitat on suburban properties significantly increases the number and species of breeding birds, including those of conservation concern. With our continued rise in population, Tallamy argues, that the suburban landscape has effectively replaced many rural landscapes that used to support native grasses and wildflowers on the edge of farming fields. One needs to only look at the collapse of the monarch butterfly for proof of this.

So as we all anxiously await spring here in Michigan, consider adding some native plants and think of your yard as part of the natural landscape of your area and not separated from it.

Here is a list of some native plant sales in West Michigan.

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Pete DeBoer
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