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Let us step back for a while from the fiscal cliff follies and the debt ceiling debacles, and the supine stupidity of inaction from the elites at the highest levels of power and look at something all of us can do in our backyard to make our planet a better place, save money, reverse the trend of diminishing homeland for our fellow creatures and plants, clean our ground and surface waters, and help fight global warming.  And, it might actually save money. What would that be, may you ask?  What that would be is sustainable landscaping. Follow me below the filigree for some tasty tidbits...

A couple of years ago,  in a couple of diaries here and here, I took our current default “traditional” landscape practices to task for their wasteful  dependencies on fossil fuels, chemicals and squandering of surface and ground waters.  Today, I will go into detail in discussing and defining the alternative landscape paradigm, sustainable landscaping, and comparing and contrasting it with the traditional default landscape treatment,  as we think spring planting in the depths of our meager virtually snowless  winter near the south end of Lake Michigan.

Why is this so important, you may ask, in the context of so many larger issues? Well,  our “traditional” default landscape practices act as a metaphor for all of our other ecocidal, genocidal, and wasteful aspects of  human society, those which, if not changed, will eventually lead to our downfall. Traditional landscape practices eschew diversity in the landscape for a limited and unsustainable palette of species, wiping out anything that might interfere with that goal via chemical and fossil fueled maintenance practices. Furthermore, like homogenized corporate culture, the ‘traditional’ landscape tosses out any sensibility or context of local adaptation or indigenous ecology, attempting to foist a “one size fits all” approach to everything, to the exclusion of everything else.  Which is why we see the turf lawn used from sea to shining sea, from the boreal forests of northern Maine to the desert landscapes of southern California.  And finally, last but not least, the traditional landscape fosters an extreme dependence on huge chemical inputs, fossil fuels, labor and materials that should seriously be questioned on a planet that is rapidly bumping up against its physical and ecological limits.

This toxic, expensive and unsustainable model is heavily promoted in advertising on the corporate media in early spring, much of which consists of greenwashing and catchy phrases, such as Tru Green (formerly Chemlawn) urging “people to go greener” while ridiculing small local landscape maintenance companies.

Fortunately,  sustainable landscaping provides an excellent alternative to these practices. What is sustainable landscaping? In a nutshell, sustainable landscaping eliminates or greatly reduces the wasteful and excessive use of fossil fuels or water in the landscape, promotes to as great an extent possible a diverse and rich community of plants with multiple layering in the ground plane and above, uses native or locally adapted non-invasive plants, makes use of local rainfall and runoff and absorbs it in place, and considers the need for providing habitat for native animal life, including the insects that provide the building blocks and foodstuffs for birds, mammals, and other animals that depend upon them.

A sustainable landscape has the following  characteristics :

* Minimizes or mitigates impervious (water-repelling)  surfaces so as to preserve the natural hydrologic cycle and replenish groundwater.

* Incorporates water-absorbent features such as rain gardens, green roofs and bioswales to soak in and recharge the water table.

*Utilizes long-lived locally native or non-invasive plants as the central element of the landscape.

*Minimizes or eliminates fossil fuel inputs for construction and management.

* Minimizes or eliminates inputs of man-made chemical fertilizers

* Reduces or eliminates artificial irrigation.

* Puts the right plant in the right place, by adapting the plant to the characteristics of the space versus the other way around.

*Maintains plants according to ecological principles and natural growth forms of the plant.

*Promotes biodiversity and habitat for other organisms, diversity makes a more resilient habitat.

* A sustainable landscape is a net carbon sink when factoring in maintenance practices and actually sequesters carbon.

* Uses locally sourced materials for plants and hardscapes (stone, paving materials).

*Recycles or reuses materials when practical.

*Modeled on local ecosystem processes and mimics the life and nutrient cycling found in stable natural areas.

*Integrates food production into the landscape and principles of permaculture.

* Builds soil structure, not degrades it.

In future diaries, I will flesh out these points as part of a series, discussing these elements one by one; however here are some tantalizing tidbits to explain some of the benefits of native landscaping.

A landscape based on a small palette of non-native species supports less than 10% of the insect species needed to sustain native birds (Bringing Nature Home). Replacing these landscapes with a diversity of native trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers supports the hundreds of species of native insects needed to sustain birds and other organisms such as frogs, toads, lizards, and bats, which help control annoying or dangerous insects such as flies and mosquitoes.  It also links together an increasingly fragmented landscape that isolates natural areas between areas of biological desert.

The typical home or commercial built landscape has less than 15 species of plants in an average 1-acre lot or commercial space, . The average undisturbed forested, savanna or prairie landscape contains upwards of 100 species in the same area. Native prairie can contain 30 species in a square meter. Research has demonstrated that diverse plantings produce more biomass, store more carbon, and are more resistant to weeds and invasive species  . That experience bears out in my home landscape as well, in a mostly native area that contains 40 species in a 25 x 15 area. A typical home landscape might contain 2 to 10 intentionally planted species, and several weeds or opportunistic plants.  Almost no weeding is necessary, the diverse plantings and deep rooted prairie plants shut out typical lawn weeds such as dandelions.

Shooting stars and golden Alexanders in spring
The same planting area in summer, with coneflowers, bee balm and Culver's root.
Wild rose hips in the same bed in fall. Over 30 species grow in a 10 x 10 area. Less than 30 minutes a season is spent maintaining this area.
Bottle gentian, one of the last blooms in fall. In this area, there are plants blooming from early May through early November.

Not only Is it less weedy, but the sustainable landscape costs much less in time and money. Maintaining an acre of high quality turf lawn can be five times or more labor intensive, use 10 times or more the fossil fuel inputs, and cost 4 times the annual maintenance cost of a sustainable, self -replicating landscape based on native species, at least in the Midwest and East US.

cost comparison of sustainable landscape maintenance vs turf grass
When the lifecycle costs and embodied energy of traditional turf-centric landscaping maintenance equipment , fossil fuel consumption, and energy inputs of fertilizer, water, and machinery are factored in, the typical suburban lawn adds a considerable amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect (slide). Even the American Society of Landscape Architects has attempted to summarize the greenhouse gas effect of the dominant simplified lawn model of landscaping.  Replacing a turf-based landscape with a sustainable native –based prairie landscape actually reduces a positive carbon dioxide output of over 1/2 ton per acre to a net sequestration of 1/2 ton per acre per year.
Sustainable landscapes celebrate the locality of place through locally sourced hard elements (stones and other hard features), and locally grown and obtained plant species. This specialness of place was called the “genius loci” by the Greeks and is an important element of the sustainable landscape. The locally sourced materials also require far fewer energy inputs to obtain and decrease the chance of importing disease and invasive species into the area. Locally grown and propagated plants are also better adapted to the local climactic conditions.

Here are some examples of  sustainable landscapes using locally sourced materials and native plants (photographs)

Native prairie and woodland plants on a narrow lot with locally sourced stone and flagstone walkway. Most runoff absorbs into the walkway.
Native prairie blazingstar, and prairie grasses ornament planting beds at the Barrington Illinois Metra commuter rail station.
A diverse palette of purple coneflowers, butterfly milkweed, bee balm, wild quinine, yellow coneflower and native grasses light up a planting bed in midsummer.
Most of this traditional lawn has been replaced by diverse savanna and prairie plantings in part shade. The remainder consists of low mow fescue and is only what the resident needs for gathering and access to the property.
A rain garden in early fall collects runoff from the roof of this house, beautified by New England aster, grasses, sedges and blazing stars.
Un-needed, shallow-rooted and difficult to mow turf is replaced on a steep dry slope with drought-tolerant native prairie plants, including pale purple coneflower, butterfly milkweed,  and little bluestem. The native planting stops erosion and also absorbs roof runoff.

Next time, we will talk about what not to do with your landscape. “Traditional” landscape faux pas, why they are a big problem and how to eliminate them through sustainable landscape practices. Until then, here are some great sources for a nascent movement towards sustainability in the landscape, and building criteria for defining sustainable practices on our land.
Sustainable Sites Initiative - an organization developing sustainable land development, construction and maintenance standards - a collaborative effort of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Ecological Landscaping Association

Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association

I would like to start a Facebook group for sustainable landscaping. There currently is not one extant. If you are interested in participating, kosmail me. I also do presentations, design and installation in the upper Midwest if anyone is interested also.

11:16 PM PT: UPDATE: I have just started a sustainable landscaping Facebook page.

It can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/...

Originally posted to NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:23 AM PST.

Also republished by Practical Survivalism and Sustainable Living, Headwaters, and Community Spotlight.

Poll

Is it too early in the year to plan your landscaping choices?

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| 186 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (165+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bisbonian, dance you monster, Independent Musings, DRo, mommyof3, dharmafarmer, chicagobleu, Mary Mike, importer, OLinda, AZ Sphinx Moth, enhydra lutris, Thomas Twinnings, Siri, illegal smile, badscience, MKinTN, Burned, zerelda, marykk, Mi Corazon, maxxdogg, kkbDIA, COwoman, dull knife, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, Brian1066, Mrs M, cantelow, GeorgeXVIII, sillia, bookwoman, Aunt Pat, Nebraskablue, Tommye, ladypockt, high uintas, Justus, Over the Edge, Loonesta, SD Goat, louavul, Bob Guyer, Christin, weck, SeaTurtle, salamanderempress, wheeldog, Prairie Gal, MRA NY, Agathena, marleycat, Noddy, leftywright, Elizaveta, mahakali overdrive, GDbot, offgrid, Turbonerd, lurkyloo, BlackSheep1, hubcap, badger, paul spencer, blueoasis, Deep Harm, jan4insight, ybruti, Maximilien Robespierre, rmonroe, pvasileff, RiveroftheWest, Kristin in WA, Chitown Charlie, zett, slapshoe, cyncynical, outspoken82, radarlady, memiller, FrY10cK, Nowhere Man, mollyd, SanFernandoValleyMom, flowerfarmer, Aaa T Tudeattack, Andrew F Cockburn, Mayfly, erratic, political mutt, CA ridebalanced, nomandates, nzanne, concernedamerican, bsmechanic, frisco, uciguy30, tofumagoo, splashy, begone, Miss Jones, monkeybrainpolitics, CalGal47, Robynhood too, Liberaljentaps, texasmom, FlyingToaster, carpunder, welso, wv voice of reason, blueintheface, turn Virginia blue, leeleedee, antboy, wader, belinda ridgewood, MA Liberal, bgblcklab1, Verbascum, PeteZerria, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, buckstop, mungley, PeterHug, chicklet, jes2, Liberal Thinking, BYw, commonmass, radical simplicity, misscee, Lusty, skyfox, Sandino, FinchJ, AllisonInSeattle, InAntalya, truthhurtsaz, Jim Tietz, Fe, Eddie L, Nulwee, tle, Mike08, mobiusein, kkjohnson, anodnhajo, Alice Olson, hwy70scientist, La Musa, BlogDog, shaharazade, Thunder, cynndara, sawgrass727, arizonablue, jfromga, rhutcheson, eve, equinespecter, DvCM, filkertom, retLT, stormicats, a2nite

    Taking native seeds here! Don't want no stinking plants from 1500 miles away. Our lack of rootedness in place brought in diseases and invasive species such chestnut blight, Dutch elm disease, buckthorn, Japanese beetles, purple loosestrife and other scourges of the landscape because we failed to appreciate the beauty in our local species and materials. All of these problems have stemmed from our landscape choices. Time for a new paradigm.

    Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

    by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:23:44 AM PST

  •  Not to mention (22+ / 0-)

    that it's just downright beautiful, although I especially love how the practice confronts the corporate-enforced sameness that the landscape of America has become.  This diary makes me want to get out there and dig in the dirt again.  Tell me more; you're in my stream now!

  •  Hey! I recognize that train station (10+ / 0-)

    these photos are from there?  Wow!

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:24:52 AM PST

    •  The plantings at Barrington Metra (14+ / 0-)

      went in in 2010 to replace standard groundcovers (vinca) and mass plantings of catmint that were looking ragged and weedy due to the hot dry conditions of the site. I designed and supervised the project.

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:56:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Catmint?? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies

        In a hot, dry location?  What idjits dreamt THAT up?

        No, no, don't answer.  An architect friend of mine was surprised once at my use of landscape plants based on their preferred environments, he did tell me that most of the landscape architects he knew designed solely on the basis of plant appearance without regard for their personal habits.  I was staggered.  I had really wanted to be a landscape architect but ended up in a college without such a program; I had assumed that a landscaper needed to know plant requirements like an architect should know the tensile and compression properties of wood, steel, and concrete.

        Ecologically aware gardening is just common sense and ordinary laziness.  Why should anyone invest ten times as much effort to grow something that's always wilting, dying, and looking dilapidated, as it takes to grow something healthy, bouncy and pretty that LIKES where you put it?

        •  Landscape maintenance firms (0+ / 0-)

          make a lot of money off of monocultures, and lazy designers go with the plants that are readily and easily available from multiple vendors. Then more projects can be completed in the same amount of time. Careful design and design to reduce maintenance requirements requires a lot of thinking and time. Clients often don't care, especially if the project installation is cheap and quick and looks good for a year or two after the initial planting,

          Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

          by NoMoreLies on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 04:30:16 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I ripped up my lawn years ago (22+ / 0-)

    Mostly because it was on a hill and I can't stand mowing.

    We planted evergreen bushes and trees, flowering bushes, a weeping cherry tree and a dogwood.  

    I also planted native plants (I went to a seminar at my library-awesome) and I plant annuals in the spring.

    In my backyard, we have a small grassy area that consists of crabgrass, and my garden.

    And just about all the plants require little watering- only in extreme drought conditions.  The backyard 'lawn' never gets water- it always comes back after a rain.

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:37:17 AM PST

    •  Our front lawn is Bermuda (10+ / 0-)

      I call it zoysia, but my husband swears it Bermuda, like the rough at the golf course.

      Doesn't matter. It's a dense mat, spreads by runners, crowds out everything, and doesn't get much taller than 4in. He mows it only because there are a few spots of taller weeds that look really bad.

      The back yard is mostly weeds, with lots of flower beds. Mow the weeds, and they look like any other green ground cover. Mostly day lilies, daisies, lavender, and coneflowers. Some peonies, and oriental lilies. I planted some ferns and hostas in some of the shady areas this fall. Front yard has a big flower bed as well, with lots of the same things and irises.

      I have some areas with wild flowers, they look great when they're in bloom. Lots of daffs and tulips in the spring.

      Lots of violets in the spring. Native, and they spread.

      That's my biggest maintenance is keeping the native wildflowers from overtaking every bit of space. Once they get established, they can be pretty aggressive.

      Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

      •  Empire Zoysia (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies

        Hasn't been fertilized or watered in two years, and my neighbors want to know where they can get some because it looks nearly as good as the people's that get professional lawn services. And that's with no input from me.  

        There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

        by bernardpliers on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 04:27:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Too cold for Zoysia here (0+ / 0-)

          but buffalo grass, blue grama and low-mow fescue do just fine in areas where turf is desired.

          Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

          by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:22:28 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Two? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NoMoreLies

          That's nothing. Ours hasn't had any treatment of any kind for almost THIRTY.

          Still going strong. It's like a glued down carpet. When I went to put in the front garden, I had to cut the sod out, there was no way to easily dig it out.

          And I gave the chunks of sod to a coworker for her yard where she had the worst time getting grass to grow.

          Once it gets established, it needs nothing, and spreads slowly.

          •  Grub Hoe To Harvest Turf (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NoMoreLies

            A good sharp grub hoe (think Medieval weaponry) will carve out a pizza box sized slab in a jiff.

            There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

            by bernardpliers on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 09:32:40 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I wound up using my (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NoMoreLies

              step on edger. It's probably something like that - relatively sharp half-moon blade, with a wide base to step on.

              Works great. No gas, no flying rocks, and it doesn't pollute.

              I would cut the squares, and lift them with a square edged shovel.

              It was the only way I could clear a bed.

              •  This guy sells grub hoes cheap (0+ / 0-)

                www.easydigging.com

                Why these universal tools are rare in the US is a mystery.  I recommend the full set of hoes: forked, triangular, square.

                There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

                by bernardpliers on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 09:42:28 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I have a hand cultivator like that (0+ / 0-)

                  The hoes look nice too.

                  Lowes carries some of these, or something similar.

                  This is the edger I have

                  •  A sharpened metal nursery spade (0+ / 0-)

                    works great for peeling up sod also. And is an excellent tool for digging up and transplanting trees and shrubs. Make sure you get the all metal one piece cast through handle ones for professional use, not the cheap plastic/wood handled ones you get at the big box stores. One of these is called "King of Spades".  These are not cheap ($50-$100) but will last several lifetimes.

                    Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

                    by NoMoreLies on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 12:08:20 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I Have A Massive British Surplus Unimog Shovel (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      NoMoreLies

                      ....for digging military vehicles out of 3' of mud.  Great for transplanting! Also hacks out thick roots.

                      Also, the classic  iron "dig bar" the 5' long iron bar.  You know you're having fun when you use that!

                      There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

                      by bernardpliers on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 12:27:21 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

  •  I have always wanted to do this (8+ / 0-)

    I have a large yard and it is Colorado dry. We have little grass for the amount of yard we have. It suits the ecosystem here to plant water wise.

    Thanks for the diary, I look forward to more in the future.

    You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. -Mae West

    by COwoman on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:37:51 AM PST

  •  I wish someone would design something for me (10+ / 0-)

    I'd love to see some layouts for the Denver summer climate for all day direct son southern exposure that is still colorful and not full of cactuses.

    •  A book for you (10+ / 0-)

      Lauren Springer's "The Undaunted Garden; Planting for Weather-Resilient Beauty" 2011 --she is in Colorado. The book doesn't give layouts per se but there are lots of pictures of gardens and she talks about groupings as well as individual plants.

      Her book "Passionate Gardening" from 2000 might be even more what you're looking for but I can't find my copy...I may have loaned it to someone. I'll bet your library would have both of these!

      A good source for plants in your climate is High Country Gardens. They used to have "pre-planned gardens" you could buy as a set but right now I don't see these on their website. Typically these types of perennials are planted in fall, so maybe that's why.

      Anyway, a few years ago I bought several of their pre-planned sets and put them all along the south side of my new garden building. We're in Nebraska, so not high altitude but the site is hot, dry, windy and the soil is not great there. Yet the plants have all flourished beautifully and are still going strong with little maintenance. I was very happy with my purchases, though it was more money than I usually spend on garden stuff.

      I love it that Obama's channeling Harry Truman: "I don't give 'em hell; I just tell the truth and they think it's hell!"

      by sillia on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 09:12:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh, but one caveat (10+ / 0-)

      about the High Country Gardens catalog--they include non-native plants, as is common in "Xeric" collections. You really do want to plant natives! So choose carefully.

      There are lots of great books on native/prairie gardening. Another one I like is Wasowski, "Gardening with Prairie Plants." I found this one really helpful and inspiring.

      I love it that Obama's channeling Harry Truman: "I don't give 'em hell; I just tell the truth and they think it's hell!"

      by sillia on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 09:34:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  We're doing this in our yard in NC. (16+ / 0-)

    I hate grassy lawns and I'm not a good gardener, so our yard has been in decline since we moved in to this house.  I've also been fighting a losing battle against some very nasty invasive species.  I finally found a small landscaping company that specializes in native plants and local ecosystems, and I'm loving the transition.

    We had invasive species removed in the fall (we'll have to repeat this periodically to keep the honeysuckle, japanese stiltgrass, privet, vinca, and english ivy under control) and had weedy red maple saplings thinned out of our patch of woods.  The grass-like stuff making up our front lawn (we haven't done anything in years to maintain actual grass) is smothering under organic mulch this winter, and will be dealt with for good come spring.  We'll be planting a native pollinator garden, and putting berry bushes, herbs, and a few low-maintenance veggies like asparagus in between the fruit trees we've put in over the past 10 years.  Our woods will be getting some native understory and a few new hardwood saplings to replace some old trees that we had to have taken out.  The new trees will include a mostly-American Chestnut (hybridized for blight resistance), a pecan, oaks, and American hornbeam.

    I can't wait to see what it looks like this summer!

    •  English ivy is easy to keep under control (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, kkbDIA, NoMoreLies, texasmom, llywrch

      It's easy to pull out, and if you keep pulling it out, it dies pretty fast.

      Our neighbor had it, and pulled it out, and some pieces must have blown into our yard. Or it got out of my pots on the steps somehow.

      Anyway, it was all under the tree, and growing on it, which I really didn't want because it was choking out some of the other things. So I pulled it out.

      I have a couple of other spots I need to pull as well, but under the tree is pretty clear now.

      Ivy has shallow roots, so when you pull it, you usually get the roots, as opposed to some other things.

      •  You're right - it's the least difficult (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies

        of our invasives.  The honeysuckle and stiltgrass are by far the worst.  Unfortunately, our neighbors on either side both have lots of ivy, and don't plan on getting rid of it, which means that it keeps on trying to expand into our yard.  I might be able to keep up with the ivy, but not the rest of the invasives, so I'll let the landscapers deal with it while they are dealing with everything else.

    •  What's the objection to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies

      Red Maple?  Nice tree up here.  Tolerates all kinds of conditions.  Great color spring and fall.  I bet if you look at Doug Tallamy's book, it supports all sorts of other species too.  Just wondering, sometimes choices have to be made.  

      •  Red maple is a great native tree (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PeteZerria

        east of the Mississippi. However, since nurseries grow a lot of it, be cognizant of using local ecotypes/seed sources of the tree.

        Growing a southern Maryland ecotype (seed source) of red maple (where it is native) would be ill advised in Wisconsin, or upstate New York, as would growing the northern ecotype in Maryland.

        Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

        by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 04:04:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Red maple saplings can be weedy in understory (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies, FinchJ

        Too many of them, growing too spindly.  About 15 years ago, I read some research describing how red maples were becoming more abundant in eastern forests at the expense of othe species like sugar maple and some oaks.  Those papers talked about air pollution-related chemical changes in the soil as a possible contributor.  I haven't kept up with that research, but ours definitely needed to be thinned out to leave space for other things to grow.

        •  Our red maple and river birches (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NoMoreLies, kkbDIA

          are quite weedy at this point. But the thing is- we haven't begun to fill those layers with desired species. So they are taking advantage of the lack of structure (open niche). While they grow, they are feeding the soil organisms and helping build biomass in our degraded soil. We we letting them grow, then cutting them down at the base. Their roots will be broken down and help the soil structure. The young trunks and leaves will become additional mulch.

          Personally, I would have liked to remove the red maple (it is situated poorly) and begin coppicing our river biches, but they are providing valuable ecosystem services while our soil is built.

          Where in NC are you?

          •  Maple's Better Than Gum Trees In Understory (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NoMoreLies, kkbDIA, FinchJ

            And they make good firewood.

            You can also fill in the understory with holly and prune them to a tree shape.  They won't bolt up or get spindly, but they'll become good trees when you cut back the canopy.  

            There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

            by bernardpliers on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 09:36:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I'm in Durham. Our red maple saplings were (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NoMoreLies, FinchJ

            coming in underneath established canopy.  They were cut back, leaving the roots to decompose in place.  Come spring, we'll add in some more desirable saplings in places where new canopy trees will be needed someday, along with native understory shrubs.

            It sounds like you are doing great things with your space.  I look forward to pictures someday showing how it develops over time!   I really like the puzzle-solving aspect of this type of ecosystem-focused landscaping - what is best for this particular space, both now and decades from now?

  •  Very happy to see this post (15+ / 0-)

    The permaculture bug has bit me hard in the last few months. I think it's all very exciting and it's great to be doing something positive and hopeful for once. We've had a spate of warm weather here in the Denver areas his week, and I'll be digging little swales, which are water-soaking contour ditches, in the thawed ground today and looking at how to channel water from our drainspouts so that it doesn't just run off down the driveway.

    I also bought a pile of wildflower and other flower seeds yesterday, hoping that makes the garden presentable enough that neighbors won't think it's going too crazy (and also for the beauty and insect benefit).

    This will be my helpful pioneer plants and mulch-growing year, with veggies coming after.

    My latest permaculture epiphany- Veggies you grow yourself in a sustainable way are better nutritionally than something grown in a monoculture, even if it's organic.

    I look forward to the rest of the series, thanks tons.

    Practice Vipashyana- Occupy Awareness

    by cantelow on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:49:44 AM PST

  •  We have some prairie areas (11+ / 0-)

    on our property...hard to estimate exactly but I think a little over half the land, about 2.5 acres is in long grass. Over the years I have seeded prairie seeds into it and added plugs of prairie plants. Several years I even grew plants from seed and put them out (following ideas from Sara Stein's books). Some seeds I gathered from roadsides less than a mile away and these are growing beautifully, year after year. A lot of the plants and seeds I put out did take, and I had been maintaining a list of observed plants in our habitat.

    Unfortunately the last few years I've been disabled with late-stage Lyme disease. So am not gardening for now. I also have to overcome a great psychological horror of walking where there might be ticks--I will be struggling with this problem. Meanwhile, the prairie gets along just fine on its own.

    One of the things I was very pleased to read in your diary is the amount of carbon we're sequestering. Wow! For some reason, I had never thought of it that way. I am very pleased! :-)

    I love it that Obama's channeling Harry Truman: "I don't give 'em hell; I just tell the truth and they think it's hell!"

    by sillia on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 09:25:19 AM PST

  •  I'm into this stuff (17+ / 0-)

    I live in a trailer court, a quite nice one actually. We are supposed to maintain the lawn here, the owners are stone idiots. Most of the original planting was done mid 60s, big lawns and trees.

    Every lot has a crab apple that has now reverted to it's root stock tree, so we have crab apple/golden delish trees. There are also globe willows (awful) and Siberian elms (argh) everywhere. All the shubs here were brought in by whoever.

    My lot is the biggest in the park. I have found that I can remove the grass bit by bit without the owners noticing by making small rock gardens, stone patio, herb garden, and a container vegie garden.

    Vinca is my friend here, it thrives in the hot dry climate, can handle shade as well as sun and looks green when the owners drive by. All in all I have removed more than a third of the lawn and replaced it with either drought resistant plants or containers that are easy to water with waster water.

    This pic is of my herb garden, one of the first pieces of grass I removed. The logs are actually the border, they had been piled up so we could clip the grass back. For size the copper pot is about 3 ft tall and 2' across.

    herb garden

    The creeper on the fence was here, it's awful but it serves a purpose and I'm able to keep it where it does some good. We are growing three hop plants to shade our patio, they are planted where they get the run off from the house and I can step out and water with dish water. They will provide lots of shade where we need and hops for mr.u's home brewing.

    I could go on, but I'll bore the crap out of you. When I say we are dry here, I mean it. This pic is the view from my kitchen, there is a small pond in the middle of the trees that you see. Other than that bit of green this is typical. I'm using rabbit brush and native sage from there as my shrub planting along with lavender. In fall the bright yellow of the the rabbit brush and the purple of the lavender are beautiful. I have hens and chicks all around the base of them.

    Photobucket

    "The scientific nature of the ordinary man is to go on out and do the best you can." John Prine

    by high uintas on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 09:41:00 AM PST

  •  Went xeric two years ago. (12+ / 0-)

    We're in Boise, ID, and contrary to common perceptions about Idaho, Boise is desert--high desert. We get about 12" of rain per year.

    A couple years ago I got tired of trying to grow Kentucky bluegrass in the desert and ripped out the front yard and went xeric.

    Our local library and the water company (believe it or not!) sponsor xeric landscaping seminars every year so we got lots of free information.

    Taking out the sod was the hardest part. Rented a sodcutter from Home Debit and it took a couple hours of hard work. Sod cutters are tools of satan, believe me!

    Anyway, installed a drip irrigation system, put in drought tolerant, xeric plants, and stone/rock. I do have one small swatch of grass, a drought-tolerant hybrid buffalo grass purchased through High Country Gardens, which was referenced above. It only needs an inch or two of water a month, even in July, the hottest, driest month of the year here where it can easily go over 100 degrees for days in a row and not rain a drop. Only needs mowing once a season, in the fall.

    Yes, High Country Gardens is a good source of drought-tolerant, xeric, and native plants. We also have some nurseries in our area that carry them, so they're pretty easy to get.

    Our backyard is still in grass (we have dogs) but it's not a large area, is shaded, and doesn't need much water.

    My water usage/bill in the summer (when our rates go up to encourage conservation) has fallen by 1/3. Having only to mow a small back yard, I got rid of my gas lawn mower and replaced it with a battery mower, which I love.

    I no longer have ANY gas-powered lawn equipment; it's all battery or corded.

    We installed a rain barrel under one of our gutters in the back yard and get 40 gallons of rainwater regularly, which we use to water the vegetable garden through our drip system, also reducing significantly our city water use.

    One unanticipated consequence of having a river stone front yard: I had to buy a leaf blower. We still get leaves and pine needles coming down in the fall. With rock, you can't run a mower over it, obviously, and can't rake it, so the only answer is a leaf blower. The one I bought is dual purpose: It blows and vacuums. The vacuum function sucks up leaves, runs them through the impeller and then deposits them, nicely chopped up, in a bag--great, great garden mulch!

    It's interesting now to watch the neighbors on their daily walks stop and inspect the plants.    

    When atlatls are outlawed, only outlaws will have atlatls.

    by wheeldog on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 10:00:22 AM PST

  •  When I finally got my OWN land nine years ago, (24+ / 0-)

    I unleashed my pent up desire to garden sustainably...Since then, I've just about filled every square foot of this once empty acre of land, with native species, plantings for wildlife, and organic vegetable gardens.

      When we moved out here to our windy ridge, we were surrounded by sterile, mono-culture agricultural fields, and our neighbors on either side of us (both with far more land, but they waste it, in my opinion) cultivated nothing but several acres of lawn each (plus one, "saving grace" woodlot to our north).  There were no birds to speak of, except for sparrows, juncos and finches. No butterflies. The only small mammals were squirrels, rabbits and mice.  There was literally NOTHING growing on our lot but a magnificent stand of spruces--almost a hundred years old--on the southern boundary, and a ratty stand of silver maples, on the northern.

      Utilizing various wonderful sites ("The Wild Ones" is an organization based out of Wisconsin, devoted to wildlife gardening with native species, and the Backyard Habitat program sponsored by the NWF), the book you feature, and two others that were especially inspirational (the classic, Noah's Garden, by Sarah Stein, and the often overlooked by extremely accessible and encouraging Natural Landscaping: Gardening with Nature to Create a Backyard Paradise, by Sally Roth,  I went to work:

         My husband tilled under about 3/4's of the lawn--over the years; we were limited in our finances and had to do all the work ourselves, with our aging bodies-and I've replaced it with gardens comprised of native prairie flora and fauna, semi-arid plantings (mostly purchased from High Country Gardens), and little woodland sections filled with native fruiting shrubs and trees.  We intentionally leave the edges of our property "wild" and as untended as we can get away with (that's where the nettles grow--we eat them!--and the leaves remain completely undisturbed after they fall--many beneficial insects over-winter in leaf litter), and we've let the notoriously "messy" silver maples stand with broken snags and hollows in their branches, to provide homes for nesting birds and food for woodpeckers.

       I've planted raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, serviceberries, choke cherries, chokeberry, grey and pagoda dogwoods (both native species) and many different varieties of native viburnums, for cover...We use no chemicals whatsoever on the vegetable gardens (mostly in raised beds) or the remaining lawn or the beds. We dug a little pond--the most we could handle; didn't want to deal with fidgety pumps and constant cleaning, etc.--as a source of water, and placed bird baths throughout the yard, which we keep heated in winter...I leave all the seed-bearing flowers standing through the winter, as well as the grasses on the prairie portions, to provide additional feed.

       The results have been gratifying and impressive: Year before last (which was an excellent year; the drought sort of messed up last year), we observed many different woodpeckers (hairy, downy, red-bellied, red headed, and yellow-shafted flickers) feeding in our "snags" and nesting in the holes...Western AND eastern nuthatches and brown creepers walk up and down trunks, migrating thrushes of several kinds come through, as do blue birds, several species of warblers, and a host of small, interesting sparrows (my husband can identify them all; I forget their names...but some are chipping sparrows and song sparrows).  I've seen scarlet tanagers--that was exciting!  And brown thrashers, indigo buntings, rose breasted grosbeaks, orioles, mourning and turtle doves, crows, jays, and a huge flock of various finches now live here all year. We even get occasional, exciting visits from Coopers and Red Tailed hawks!  And great horned owls call from the tops of the spruces on cold winter nights....

       Strangely, it wasn't until this year that two ubiquitous, but longed for, birds finally found our haven: we now can hear the songs of cardinals and chickadees, and see them flash about in the snow, as well. I missed them.

      Many butterflies live in the prairie plantings, we've seen the occasional cecropia moth--alas, we haven't seen a luna or a "yellow emperor" giant night moth since we lived deep in the woods 30 years ago--and honeybees have found my heirloom apples and my domestic cherries and plums.  The squirrels are still here, but also raccoon, and opossum wander freely at night (so much for growing corn! Ah, well), we've seen weasels and lots of ground squirrels, ground hogs,  and the occasional red fox...

      I can NOT overestimate the satisfaction converting our single acre has brought us. What was once a dead, empty "lawn" is now a small, but lively, intricate, teaming eco-system, and becoming healthier and more diverse with every passing season.  The stinking giant corn and soybean fields still surround us--vast acres of dead soil and nasty chemicals--, our Old Fool neighbors still spend the better part of their lives stinking up the air driving their noisy lawn tractors, but our little oasis in the middle of Ag Business Wasteland has taken hold, and the creatures have found it.

      There's so much more to do! I can't wait for spring.

       

    •  Thank you for the history of converting (13+ / 0-)

      your yard. You should diary this!

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 10:09:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wonderful account! (14+ / 0-)

      You are a person after my own heart! I think a diary on this might inspire people, much as Sara Stein's "Noah's Garden" inspires, but for a different kind of habitat.

      We are doing something similar on our acreage in SE Nebr which was just bare pasture 25 years ago. We planted ankle-high windbreak trees which are now practically forest, hedgerows, a large organic garden, lots of restored prairie,  a water drainage garden, no pond as yet. My orchard has been problematic. The climate is harsh on fruit trees, plus I have never really tended them as much as they would like.

      The last year I was growing food (before my illness), I weighed all of my produce throughout the season, and it came to 1,000 pounds--half a ton!
      spinach.bushel

      I love it that Obama's channeling Harry Truman: "I don't give 'em hell; I just tell the truth and they think it's hell!"

      by sillia on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 10:33:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's just great, and on such a larger scale, (10+ / 0-)

        it's a lot of work!  I live on southern edge of the Buffalo Wind Ridge (I can see many windmills from my front yard) and the wind stresses all my plantings, too. The trees not sheltered by the house literally grow sideways!  

          I've planted 7 heirloom apple trees, two northern peaches, three pears, two cherries--red and black--and an apricot, so far (NOT native, but I've also planted more native fruit bearing trees than non-native, to compensate) but my "harvest" has been disappointing so far, too. I don't prune as severely as I should, and some years it's literally so windy (we have long "blows" that last for days and nights without stopping) that the blossoms can't get pollinated before they dry up....Rabbits killed both peaches and one apple during some deep snow winters,  and I lost the pears to blight...But you never know what might just "take" so I keep on keeping on.

        •  Yes, we keep on replanting (7+ / 0-)

          every other year or so, but it seems slightly futile as far as the fruit trees go. People around here do grow fruit, though--you see articles in the newspaper about some 85-yr old retiree who harvested 100 bushels in his backyard, LOL. Those folks are in town and somewhat more sheltered, plus who knows what dreadful toxins they spray on them!

          I do think we could get better results if we paid more attention to the fruit trees, but it does get to be a lot of things to look after all at the same time.

          As far as the vegetable garden work, I have raised beds that I converted to the Ruth Stout hay mulch system. I LOVE this method! It is much less actual work, although you do have to tend & fuss a little bit every day to keep it going. For me, since my office is in my home, going out and tinkering gently for 20 minutes a day is not a problem, it's a nice break. If you do that and keep the hay thick enough, you never do get weeds, watering is much less, the plants grow bigger--basically we thought the results were fabulous starting with the second year in. With my illness I'm not able to even do the little that's required so it's all abandoned for now. Maybe in a year or two I can start up again.

          The most "work" I had when I was growing food with the hay mulch system was all the food processing, LOL. I mean, you do actually have to do SOMETHING with all that stuff. But wow, does the food taste better--I really, really miss it!

          I love it that Obama's channeling Harry Truman: "I don't give 'em hell; I just tell the truth and they think it's hell!"

          by sillia on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 11:09:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Wonderful (5+ / 0-)

      Thanks for all the detail, it's inspiring!

      Practice Vipashyana- Occupy Awareness

      by cantelow on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 11:04:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've done a sustainable, edible (11+ / 0-)

    landscape for years.  almost everything growing on my property is local(ish), edible, medicinal, and pretty.

    I have the henbit blooming right now, along with dandelions and my woodland violets.  The pecan is budding (which means wrapping it in burlap if we get a freeze - and we will), the redbud has teensy little pre-buds.  The mint is coming up. My sage is greening back up and the rosemary has new tips.

    This is kind of unusual in January, I usually don't get this until March.

    This worries me that the summer will be another brutal one where the tomatoes stew on the vine and everything burns, even with dumping ice on the ground around them under the mulch to help cool the ground and hanging burlap over them for noon-4 pm semi-shade.

    All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

    by Noddy on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 10:46:18 AM PST

    •  Yeah, me too (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, NoMoreLies

      We will be lucky to make it to June before mandatory no outside watering comes down.  It's never happened before, so I don't know how drip irrigation will be handled.

      Not planning much new planting this year. We may try one replacement fruit tree, even if I have to rinse dishes in a bucket and then hike outside. Last year, I severed several babies from mother plants (which has always worked before), but they all perished in the wind & heat.  The ones I've identified lately will stay right where they are, even if I have to move something else over a bit.

      Someday we may get "normal" rainfall again.

      The truth always matters.

      by texasmom on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 12:00:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I republished your diary (10+ / 0-)

    All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

    by Noddy on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 10:48:31 AM PST

  •  Great diary, great photos (7+ / 0-)

    great time to start thinking about renewal and getting back out and getting my hands dirty for the sake of self, community and planet.

  •  Unfortunately (6+ / 0-)

    my berries and vegetables still need lots of water.  In the NW sometimes we get rainless summer months.

     Most of my grass is gone except for a couple of open areas.  I put in 4 ponds and those areas don't need watering; they catch runoff. I've got lovely native irises, cattails, and lilies in there.  I'm not sure my rosemary and lavender borders count as native plants.

    I'm most thrilled to see that tiny native frogs came back into the yard for the ponds.  When it's warmer, They spend the day roaming in the strawberries, oddly, but come back to the ponds at dusk for some boy-girl frog action.  Some springs I can see very little tadpoles in the ponds.

    I'm trying hard to get the water bill down, going to soaker hoses.

    Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

    by 6412093 on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 11:59:03 AM PST

  •  Some other benefits to aim for (9+ / 0-)

    that should be on your list.

    1. Keeping homes fire safe in wildfire danger areas - it's the law in CA and should be in a lot of other places in the west where wildfire is a concern and suburbia is encroaching more and more into high fire danger areas - the recent fires in CO, for example. Keeping a green belt around the house is one way to do it. Another is to look up lists of plants which either retard or promote fire, and plant (or remove) accordingly. The 30 feet around the house is the most important, CA law, I believe, says 100 feet, and sloping conditions can increase that even more.

    It's more important to saving your home from fire than something like a sprinkler system, because it keeps working 100% of the time. Google 'firewise' for more info.

    2. In northern climates, deciduous trees shading the south side of the home in summer, losing their leaves and allowing sunlight in winter. Along with properly designed overhangs and glass area on the southern face of the house, those are the basic principles of passive solar design, which can save you huge amounts of heating - and cooling - energy, and even some savings on lighting.

    3. Make some of your landscaping edible. There's a prejudice (racial in some areas) about gardening for food in the front yard, but a lot of edible things are ornamental as well - chives, parsley, basil and other herbs, for example. Strawberries make a nice ground cover in beds. Fruit trees are just as attractive as other species.

    4. Habitat (mentioned in diary a little) - the idea that wildlife only thrives in special wilderness areas is about 180 degrees away from reality. Most wildlife thrives near humans. For birds, for example, you can provide a lot more than feeders. Some bird species like a lot of cover - hedges and shrubs are great for them. Different species like different elevations - flycatchers like an isolated, elevated spot to survey for flying insects they grab out of the air. Other birds want even taller trees, some like medium high habitat, some like tall grasses on the ground. Feeding larger wildlife, like deer or racoons (or bears - even PA and NJ have large black bear populations) probably isn't a good idea, but being willing to tolerate a little browsing isn't such a bad idea either.

    And if you have an acreage, providing shelter areas and food sources for larger animals is a really good idea.

    In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

    by badger on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 12:03:53 PM PST

  •  Would like to see a Facebook page (8+ / 0-)

    on sustainable landscaping. Also interested in the overlapping subject of permaculture.

    In the face of global warming, massive lawns are a foolish waste of water and other resources. Besides, native plantings are so much more interesting, and give back in many ways.

  •  T & R for a series and this informative diary (6+ / 0-)

    that was so well prepared and illustrated.

    The comments are outstanding as well.  I would love to see a regular series devoted to landscaping and gardening for the future.  I'm currently in limbo about exactly what I want to do and how to accomplish it as we're currently moving into our third year of drought.  I've used natives along with other plants that were sustainable as I've gradually converted what was almost all lawn into mostly
    beds or areas often.  I'm still somewhat overwhelmed with trying to decide what to do since the long term prognosis is strongly favoring desertification so I'm not even sure how many currently native species will survive or for how long.

    I've read and thought quite a bit about the alternatives and possibilities but so much depends upon the speed and vicissitudes of climate change.  I find the shared experiences of others the most interesting and helpful in deciding what I can and want to do.

    More: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it?

    by blueoasis on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 12:44:09 PM PST

    •  We are in NW Texas and are focusing (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, blueoasis, Aunt Pat, cantelow

      on renewing, deepening and maintaining the mulch on all of our plantings this year.  We will be happy to keep everything alive and maybe even spreading a bit this year.  The only thing we lost last year were some rootings I transplanted away from the mother plants.  I think we can do better with the mulch, though. We had so many days of sustained 30-40 mph winds last summer, it became very uneven.  

      Maybe that will help to make the most of our little offerings of water.

      I don't know where you are and know they are not native everywhere, but our daylilies, iris and herbs are the hardiest and easiest things in our garden.

      The truth always matters.

      by texasmom on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 12:59:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  my daylilies are hardy and not thirsty (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        texasmom, Aunt Pat, blueoasis, cantelow

        but my land irises (as opposed to my water irises) need to keep getting split annually or so, or they refuse to keep flowering.  When the land irises die back in the late summer they get weedy too.

        Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

        by 6412093 on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:22:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'm a ways northeast of you in the Southern (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies, Aunt Pat, cantelow, texasmom

        Plains.  Yes, those plants that you mention are all good standards.  I'm sure that we have lots of similar problems, but it's really been worse up here than most of Texas this last year and my area is going into the sixth month of extraordinary drought.  We've even gotten a little less rain than most of the larger area that's also in extraordinary drought which is pretty depressing.  I think that they need to add another top level, like really, really extraordinary. :)

        It's interesting that you mention the mulch since that has been a major headache the last year.  I'm no longer able to find decent bark mulch at all in the area.  It's just been in the last couple of years that the bagged bark mulch from several brands has become crap with half of it being residue, twigs, and chunks of limbs; I even found a flattened soft drink can in a bag.  No nurseries carry it and the only sources of bulk nuggets are 150 miles.

        I could do a long rant on so many gardening products whose prices have increased and the quality deteriorated.
        One of the problems of living in a smaller town without any major cities close, though I suspect many of the problems I'm encountering are becoming increasingly widespread.

        More: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it?

        by blueoasis on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:51:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The quality of mulch (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blueoasis, cantelow

          has become more degraded here as well, despite ready access to many ground wood products. Good bulk mulch is expensive, and companies that produce mulch have taken to grinding up any old lumber and scrap wood they get their hands on, which might include treated wood, pallets and other nasty products.

          Ironically, the least contaminated mulch might be ground up wood chips from the local tree service, or from your town or village if they pick up and chip brush for residents.

          Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

          by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:57:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think it's similar to whatever it is that is (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NoMoreLies

            labeled "compost" today.

            The town is thankfully still doing a limited mulching when the equipment is working and the employees have the free time.  Unfortunately the site where they used to unload mulch also allows anyone to toss limbs and such on top of the very roughly ground mulch and it's all a mess.  There's really no planning or oversight and hardly anyone here thinks such things are serious.  I haven't checked in several years now, but even if I could get to some of the chunky stuff, I'm somewhat leary about introducing diseases into my yard, but then I suppose the risk isn't any greater than with any other source.

            More: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it?

            by blueoasis on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 02:29:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  What's wrong with dandelions? I have some (6+ / 0-)

    turf and it has violets and dandelions in it. It is pretty in the spring when they are in flower.

    Great diary!

    •  Many people will think I'm nuts, (3+ / 0-)

      and I am!  However, I like dandelions.  A few years ago while driving through British Columbia we came upon large areas filled with them.  The grew taller than the ones that grow locally here in NCAL.  Some of the "flowers" where bigger than the palm of my hand.  I think I would love the violets and dandelions in your turf.

      Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't.... (then it's on to Plan B or more duct tape).

      by Aunt Pat on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:46:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Some of those huge dandelions (4+ / 0-)

        might be impostors. There is a plant around here called goats beard or oyster plant that produces dandelion-like flowers 2-3 inches across and grows in taller grassy areas and roadside ditch lines. The plants can be up to 3 ft tall, but are usually 18" tall or so.

        What is interesting is that the flowers close up by early afternoon, and the seed heads look like monstrous dandelion seed puffballs, and can be up to 4" across.

        Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

        by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 02:01:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Nothing is wrong with dandelions (6+ / 0-)

      except the neighbors might complain about weedy lawns. The myth is that prairie or woodland plantings provide habitat for dandelions. On the contrary, the taller, deeper rooted native species choke out dandelions, which depend on close mowed (or grazed) turf. A thick lawn mowed at a height of 3 1/2 to 4 inches also tends to smother out a lot of dandelions.

      You have a "freedom lawn" which is more diverse than traditional turf, and more sustainable, especially if you don't use a gas-powered mower to mow it. Of course in a manicured neighborhood, you might need to give your neighbors some education.

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:48:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My mother-in-law visited us one spring (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        texasmom, NoMoreLies, cantelow, llywrch

        many years ago and decided to help with lawn care by squirting all the dandelions with Round-up (I keep a bottle for poison ivy). We didn't find out what she had done until a couple of weeks afterwards when our lawn was covered with tiny crop circles.

        This led to some domestic strife when I voiced my opinion rather freely.

  •  You might have to fight city hall. (8+ / 0-)

    We did here in Strathmoor Village, a small town surround by Louisville, KY.

    Yes, we found city hall and won. Across Bardtown Road in another "village" they lost their battle. How did you win? Here is the recipe:

    1) Organize your neighbors. In our case it turned out 50 house (of 200) broke the technical rule. The rule was designed to punish 3 homes but rules often slop over and catch folks who are not paying attention. We took photos and knocked on every door that violate the ordinance. One would have to cut down the bush "grandma" planted 50 years ago. Another would have to give up their annual banana tree.

    2) Bring in the press. I contacted a reporter who I knew would be sympathetic. He was looking for a good story.

    3) Look for help in other government agencies. We contacted the air quality folks who showed up at the meeting with brochures pointing out that mowing lawns increased air pollution and asthma - which is the #1 reason Louisville students miss school.

    Bottom line: If city hall tries to stop healthy landscaping, organize!

    I don't know what consciousness is or how it works, but I like it.

    by SocioSam on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:38:05 PM PST

  •  how about coming here. . . (5+ / 0-)

    to New Mexico, and serving in the role of a guru of lawns for xeriscaping? I say this especially for you to counsel the dunderheads who move here from other parts of the country, say, Minnesota, New York, even California, where water is usually plentiful and to the extreme. Here, not so. And when I see a green lawn in a high chaparral desert setting, such as here in Albaturkey (sic), I want to take a leak on its turf. We are in a continuing prolonged drought, La Nine, that bad-ass dry-prone sibling to the better and wetter, El Nino, and the continued stingy precip only exacerbates the problem. What wisdom you share in this very informative diary is badly needed here. So, should I start a collection for people coughing it up and paying you to visit and 'learn us' a thing or two?

    Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

    by richholtzin on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 01:46:42 PM PST

    •  Lawns are even problematic here in Wisconsin (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cantelow, texasmom, PeteZerria

      Grass was brown for the majority of last summer, and we have had only about 60 percent of normal rainfall, so converting to native species and xeriscaping is even important here. I am convinced we are moving towards the historic climate of Kansas or northern Oklahoma and need to be prepared with more drought and heat-tolerant species of plants.

       I am most familiar with native and sustainable landscaping in the Midwest or East Coasts, but the general concepts and design are applicable to your region as well. I have to bone up on the native species of your region before I can come and do a talk appropriate to your region.  I'd be tickled to ride the Southwest Chief from Chicago down for a talk if it could be arranged, though!

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 02:07:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Vacant Lots etc As Sources (4+ / 0-)

    I spent quite a bit of time gathering plants from fields and marginal areas to reclaim an area.  This included many buckets of wild ferns gathered from the edge of a farmer cousin's yard.  i also found a couple real gems of native plants in the area I was trying to reclaim.  Some of them just needed a little more sun or to have honeysuckle vines removed.  Useful plants might already be where you want them,

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 02:31:21 PM PST

    •  If possible, collect seeds to propagate not plants (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeteZerria, Jim Tietz

      unless the areas will be developed and not preserved. Destroyed by grading or land use conversion; then plants should be rescued.

      Many species require specialized habitat, especially orchids, and may not survive the transplanting.  

      However, you should scan your own property thoroughly, especially if there is unmanaged woodland or grassland, or desert habitat still on it. There may be remnant native plants there worth saving.

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 02:53:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Locally Abundant" Plants (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies, PeteZerria

        I would not condone taking a rare plant, but there are also plenty of plants that aren't common commercially which may be found locally in great numbers.  And that thicket on a vacant lot or old barnyard might become a 7-11 anyway.

        Elderberry is a good example of a plant that is very good for wildlife and can be collected from root cuttings.  I hacked mine out of thick brush in an industrial area.  I got elderberry trees from a  utility easement that was already a tangled mess of elderberries.  I dug up clethra from a big thicket that could have bulldozed at any time.

        There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

        by bernardpliers on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 03:38:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Nature is pretty good at propagating (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies

      I've been working for years to build the soil and xeroscape our 3/4 acre of northern CA.  While I have lots of non-native species still growing in the yard, I haven't had to proactively bring much into my yard -- I have more volunteers than I can shake a stick at.

      While I'm guessing many of the species are not native, I'm not after eradicating "aliens".  I practice more "subtractive" gardening.  If you have pointy bits that snag on me or scratch my family, you're gone.  If you don't play nice with your fellow plants (i.e. typical landscape species that attempt to maintain mono-culture, like ground cover vines), you're gone.  Some of the grasses get a pass despite having stick-um style seeds since they're doing great work toward building habitat and preventing erosion.

      While some of the species that are vectored in (by animals, the wind, etc.) are noxious weeds (according to my rules), I find that the natural mix that results works pretty well to exclude newcomers once the area greens up.

      Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

      by Jim Tietz on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 06:38:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Edible Forest here in north-central Massachusetts (5+ / 0-)

    We're midway in planning the first phase of putting in an edible forest garden in our yard, along with a solar power panel array to help us get a bit off-grid. We already employ solar hot water and that alone has cut our electrical power use pretty dramatically.

    Click thru to any of these links if you're interested in learning more about edible forest gardens.

    "A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future." – Leonard Bernstein

    by frisco on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 02:43:41 PM PST

  •  For those in the U.S. Southwest (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, cantelow, texasmom

    A tremendous resource is here: http://www.nativeseeds.org/.
    They are in Tucson, but will ship from their web store.

  •  We did ours 9 years ago... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cantelow, NoMoreLies, 6412093, mmacdDE

    ... in suburban Boston.

    Because many of the indigenous plants are kinda ugly (not, all, just some) we did put in climate-equivalent imports, mostly Korean breeds.  So we have no lawn on 2/3 of the property (the backyard is clover/grass/weeds on two levels, with a border fence and berry plants), waldstenia ternata as groundcover on the south side, vinca minor (bowes) on the east side and cranesbill geranium on the southeast corner, with larger plants implanted.  We have a planting bed on the southside for tomatoes and herbs, and pots around the property for flowers, herbs, and peppers.  

    Our watering bill is about a quarter of most, because we have two rainbarrels for ground irrigation and the plantings cover the ground rather than hardscape (the driveway slopes into the fence/rosebushes/waldstenia).  

    The people across the street have grass, sprinklers, and a landscaping service that comes by twice a week.  They're spending a fortune.  I'm not.

    •  As long as the non-natives aren't thug (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      llywrch

      invasives that run rampant via seed or rootstock, they are ok to plant. I do have some of these types in my plant beds at home. The plants, native or non-native should also be sourced (propagated and grown) locally to reduce the chance of importing hitchhikers:  diseases, insects or weed plants in the root ball that aren't already in your area.

      Obviously native species are better as habitat, but non-native, non aggressive species are a definite improvement over monocultural turf lawn.

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 05:51:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have a tough time (0+ / 0-)

      meeping stuff well-watered in outdoor pots. They dry out so quick.

      Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

      by 6412093 on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:37:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wonder if anyone has ideas for our situation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies

    We recently purchased an old house in Albany, NY. There is a row of several large cottonwoods and fir trees on the north side and a row of several beautiful large maples on the east side. Part of the lawn is on the north side shaded by the house and then there's this useless stretch of 15 x 30 feet of grass on the north side of the cottonwoods between the trees and the street.

    We have an electric mower, so it's not as bad as a gas, but I still hate using energy and time to maintain the useless stretches that are heavily shaded by the trees. The strip of grass also seems to be an invitation for people parking along that street to park right in the yard. I wouldn't care so much about that, but if it's soggy then muddy ruts get left and are harder to mow.

    So what we'd like to do I think is convert that stretch of grass into some shade tolerant plants that are tall enough to discourage parking but not so tall that area underneath needs maintenance, and also don't require too much maintenance in general. We'd also like some shade tolerant plants to put on the eastern edge where the maples shade out the grass (and would help hold the dirt on a very small hill there, preventing erosion and dirt runoff into a sewer drain 15 feet away). And it'd be neat to get some more habitat for insects in that area. Several folks have suggested ferns, but I'm not sure what type to choose and whether there's other plants we could mix in.

    Any ideas?  Suggestions are much appreciated.

    •  Some possibilities (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      antboy, dharmafarmer, cantelow

      at least if your shaded site has average to slightly above average moisture and is not too dry: soil conditions will have some bearing.

      Native shrubs: eastern spicebush, striped maple, American hazelnut, elderberry, eastern wahoo, arrow-wood viburnum, nanny berry viburnum, withe rod viburnum, fringe tree

      Native ferns  - wood fern, maidenhair fern, Christmas fern, lady fern, interrupted fern, Ostrich fern, sensitive fern. Many of these willl form a ground cover, especially ostrich fern.

      Wild ginger - an excellent ground cover

      If the areas get a bit of sun and aren't too heavily shaded: ox eye or early sunflower (Heliopsis), golden Alexanders (Zizia), zig zag goldenrod, Short's and arrow leaved aster, big leaved aster. Bottle brush grass and silky wild rye. Summer and fall interest.

      Spring ephemerals - bloom or leaf out in spring - then go dormant or go to seed - wild leek, hepatica, spring beauty, trout lily, dutchman's breeches, bead lily, trilliums, woodland phlox, may apple.

      Other flowering natives, hold leaves until later: blue cohosh, baneberry (red and white), Solomon's seal, false solomon's seal.

      Demarcate the shaded areas that you no longer want in turf and leave the leaves in place there to rot. Don't rake them up - the humus is needed for the plants.  You may want to kill the existing grass and plants by spreading newspaper over them at the beginning of the growing season, then covering it with mulch to smother the vegetation. You should be ready to plant that fall or the following spring.

      You may also want to obtain some locally sourced boulders to accent the area along the street and to discourage cars from parking off the road.

      If you can provide a map of your property (plat of survey) and some pictures to orient me, I might be willing to draw up a plan for a fee. Kosmail me if you are interested.

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 06:37:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the suggestions! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies

        I'll have to look more into what you suggested. The boulders are a good idea, though I probably need to check with the city about how close they can be to the street. Soil is usually somewhat moist I think (though we had something of a drought this year), so those species would probably work.

        Thanks!

  •  We're heavily into this in Southern California, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lusty, NoMoreLies

    and I've been promoting native Californian and water-thrifty gardens for twenty years now. (I designed and maintain two large on-campus school gardens for what I call a "built-in field trip." I like the name "schooyard habitat.")

    But there's no doubt in my mind that if I was in Georgia, for example, or New Hampshire (or wherever), that I'd be promoting either Georgia or New Hampshire native plants.
    (I'd add that if I included critters in those landscapes that they'd be indigenous critters as well.)

    "They come, they come To build a wall between us We know they won't win."--Crowded House, "Don't Dream It's Over."

    by Wildthumb on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 07:59:11 PM PST

  •  I let the wind "rake" my yard. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093, Lusty, NoMoreLies, mmacdDE

    Where I used to live I had a bunch of big trees, which dumped their leaves in my yard, and leaves piled up knee high along the fence. Rather than rake, I planted the area with fragrant sumac...a low, shrub...and let the leaves stay right there. They were a natural mulch, holding down the weeds and the sumacs grew great.

    •  Me too! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, NoMoreLies, Dave in Columbus

      I leave the leaves where they land, and have quite thick natural mulch in most of my yard. When I'm industrious I rake the leaves from the sidewalks and driveway into the garden. Meanwhile all my neighbors are raking away all the leaves from their yards and into the street for the weekly garden waste pickup. Then they go and buy chemical fertilizers to replace the natural one they removed. Agh.

      •  Me three! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies, Lusty, Dave in Columbus

        I rake up and mulch nearby leaves too, while my neighbors slave to rid themselves of leaves.  I'll run my (electric) mower over a leaf pile to chew it up for the compost heap.  It works good. The fecund heap harbors masses of wriggling worms.

        Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

        by 6412093 on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 10:14:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Sustainable landscaping: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lusty, NoMoreLies

    the Memorial garden for our family at The Rock (Port Clyde Harbor, ME)

    What is truth? -- Pontius Pilate

    by commonmass on Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:37:18 PM PST

  •  I started about 7 years ago (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies

    I've been doing my yard in sections over the past 7-8 years. The side yard I started with hasn't had any water other than rain for the past 5 years or so. The front section, planted about 5-6 years ago, started with weekly summer water the first year, and backed off each year; it was down to every couple of months during the summer last year (even in a very dry year). This year we've had significantly more winter rains than last year. I may skip summer water altogether on that section, except perhaps for some supplemental water for the young oak and madrone. The oak started about 6 inches and has grown to about 6 ft.

    I've been on the "Going Native Garden Tour" (San Francisco bay area) every year since starting this process, and I'm always gratified by the glowing comments from visitors, as well as comments from random neighbors who wander by.

    Along with wildlife, my favorite benefit are the wonderful smells that come from my garden year round, since California natives include a lot of aromatic plants.

  •  Excellent! Well said! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, cantelow, shaharazade

    I'm really happy to see this diary on the community spotlight. These ideas are extremely important as our local landscape reveals much about our interaction with the biosphere. It is something that many people can change. Sustainable (I would argue regenerative) landscaping has many social and personal benefits as well. Huge stress reducers to walk through one of these systems.

    I had started a diary series just over a year ago that covers much of the same ground. If anyone is interested in seeing our transformation from Nov 2010 to June 2012, you can visit these two diaries: first and second. They are embed heavy and have links at the beginning to the other diaries in the series. There diaries are- introduction, garden ecology, soils, layering, and polycultures.

    My stance on native plants may differ from yours. We try to study as much about the plants as possible before purchasing and when a native fits the need, they are top choice. However, some plants, such as Russian Comfrey, are a wonderful addition and with sterile seeds will stay put unless physically moved. Most of the edible plants that people desire are also not native. It is my opinion that natives only in our personal landscapes will unnecessarily limit our options when filling niches in the landscape as well as defer the "problem" of non-natives to somewhere else- say a farm or market garden.

    I like your energy and hope you can keep your new series going! I know how much work goes into these diaries. Keep writing!

    •  Wow look at all those typos. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NoMoreLies, shaharazade

      This is why I shouldn't write anything in the morning.

      Again, thanks for the great diary NoMoreLies!

    •  My stance on natives (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FinchJ

      is try to use them as much as possible, where appropriate, in the landscape, to create habitat and regenerate the water cycle. That being said, there is definitely a place for non-agressive non-native species, both for food production and for ornamental value (I use non-natives in portions of my yard).

      The only caveat is sticking to non-aggressive/invasive species and cultivars, which it looks like you are doing. It is also important to try to use locally grown plant material (within 50-100 miles of your site), even the non-natives can have issues with being adapted to your climate or bring in unwanted hitch hikers (diseases, insects or plants) to your land.

         I have read your diaries and they are an excellent review of the mixed permaculture landscape.

      If you do FB, why not ask to join my sustainable landscape group, and feel free to post links and articles to the group. Your diaries would be a valuable addition!

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:17:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ah, we are on the same page then. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shaharazade, NoMoreLies

        I wish I knew of good local sources for seeds when I lived in NC. A lot of our seeds came from elsewhere. I had thought about visiting a local national park, since many of our local municipal parks are basically broken ecosystems. Over story of a single age and no understory to speak of :(. But, I wasn't sure if it was legal to harvest seeds from national parks.

        If I was on FB, I would join. But I am not there any longer. However, feel free to cross post anything I publish here if you desire.

        I look forward to your next diaries on this subject. I like your perspective!

  •  Hoe about a choice: "Already done" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies, shaharazade

    I could check that.

    Particularly enjoy my redirect of rainwater from roof to yard. Fun to engineer, fun to watch.

    This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

    by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 01:21:22 AM PST

  •  Can you include list of recommended plants (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies

    for the various "zones" in future posts?

    The elevation of appearance over substance, of celebrity over character, of short term gains over lasting achievement displays a poverty of ambition. It distracts you from what's truly important. - Barack Obama

    by helfenburg on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 06:02:02 AM PST

    •  I'll try to provide some sort of overview (0+ / 0-)

      but due to the vast amount of plants and differing climates (both temperature and precipitation) throughout the country, I would only be able to scratch the surface. I'll link to other info as appropriate though.

      If you kosmail me with info about your site, I can recommend plants for your specific locale in more detail.

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:19:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not All Tough Plants Are Native (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shaharazade

    Rose of Sharon and Winter Jasmine were imported 100 years ago and became traditional favorites.

    Likewise, the jujube is nice Chinese fruit tree that does well up to zone 7 but really craves blast furnace temperatures.

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 09:39:48 AM PST

    •  There are also native hibiscus (0+ / 0-)

      that resemble Rose of Sharon that are hardy to Zone 3 or 4, but unlike Rose of Sharon, they are a large perennial, not a shrub, grow about 2 to 4 feet tall, and die to the ground each winter. I have a couple of them in my beds at home. I also have a rose of sharon plant near the pool. Bad idea, a lot of spent flower buds fall into the pool making for a lot of pool cleaning.

      They certainly are tough and beautiful though, although south of me in Tennesee some land managers consider them invasive.

      http://forums.gardenweb.com/...

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 12:18:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Many Wonderful Natives For Swamp And Shade (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NoMoreLies

        I wonder if the relative lack or xeriscape plants is because  much of the midwest was recently under glaciers or glacial seas?

        Oh beaked filbert is shrub of prairies, and I'm pretty sure it would survive being hit by a flamethrower.

        There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

        by bernardpliers on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 01:02:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Lovely, lovely idea. (0+ / 0-)

    Now, I'm going to admit to not being nearly as parti-calur.   What the wood sprites told me when I asked what they wanted in return for the accumulated leafmold I was raiding from that little strip by the railroad tracks where all my neighbors had been dumping their leaves and grass clippings for a decade was "More species!  More genetic material!  New pretties!"  And that has been my motto evermore.

    I know that foreigners have brought problems into the country, but if they're already pretty much naturalized there's only so much more damage they're going to do.  If they're pretty and they'll grow where I put 'em without much attention or artificial fertilizer, why not?  I like honeysuckle and wisteria.  And they grow easily in the Southeast precisely because their native habitats in Southeast Asia are similar.  I can't do anything about the Chestnut Blight now.  But I still like to eat chestnuts, and so do the deer, and the Chinese varieties resist the parasite they brought to us.  My only rules are 1) I DON'T DO GRASS, 2) Less is NOT more, and 3) No Orange (except when I specifically decide otherwise).

    I know Purple Loosestrife is considered so invasive that it's now devilish hard to find seeds, but when I grew it, it was very well-behaved in the location I had to give it.  St. Johnswort was rambunctious but kept to its assigned area, and if it hadn't, well, the only thing it would have displaced was lawn I hadn't gotten rid of yet, and it's useful for both magic and medicine.

    Unfortunately, we have already altered the biosphere and local ecologies so much that many native species will no longer grow in areas where they were once attested.  So while I definitely give preference to natives wherever I can get them to grow, if they won't then I'll try something else.  Here in Virginia we're dealing with a disrupted ecospace, and we're going to have to work our way into a new balance.  Old things are good.  New things may also be good.  I pay especial attention to plants that may feed me or local birds and animals.  I get to see lots of pretty flowers, and The Cats Approve.  According to Master Styphon, our yard is interesting.  There's lots of different stuff there to sniff, to play with, to hide behind, and to attract all sorts of interesting things to stalk, even if he's not in the mood to kill them.
     

  •  Inspirational... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies

    As a botanist, I spent a lot of time outdoors with my children, teaching them about the rhythms of life, biomes, and the greater good that is achieved when you "go with the flow."  Now I spend time (as much as possible!) doing the same with my young granddaughters.  Funny thing happened on the way to grandmotherhood though....my son married - another botanist!  Now before we get all Freudian, I'd like to think it's because her ideas resonated with his, from all the teachings he had growing up with me.  He's an engineer, by the way, looking for solutions to problems that just don't exist if you're "going with the flow."  Besides the ease of care, the way the plants will eventually grow is just stunning.  I've convinced the homeowner's association where I live to start replacing the builder's plantings (that are dying, because they don't want to live here, and no one wants to spend a lot of time trying to convince them that it's a nice neighborhood) with native species, and have made suggestions.  Voila!  The compliments we're getting on how much better it all looks, and with so little care!  I'm looking forward to the rest of your series!  Thank you!

  •  I'd love to take out a section of my yard for (0+ / 0-)

    this. My landlord, not so much. I'm very much looking forward to owning again!

    My last house I had a small yard (~12ft-12ft), so I ripped out all the weeds (including some grass and small trees), put in a (native) Colorado Blue Spruce, and planted flowers and tomato plants in pots. End result, almost no weeds, reasonable water usage, and all the tomatoes I wanted with extra for the local wildlife.

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