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Native Gardening

Native gardening is simply the use of plants, trees, shrubs, ground cover and grasses—along with rocks and boulders—indigenous to the geographical area in which the garden is located. Planned planting beds are designed to blend your property into the natural surroundings of the area.

In other words, natural landscaping, or native gardening, is adapted to the climate, geography and hydrology of your specific location. Absolutely no pesticides and limited use of fertilizers. Water and general maintenance should be respectfully administered, keeping in mind that native plants have adapted and evolved to your particular local conditions over thousands of years.

Once installed, this kind of gardening should be low-maintenance gardening (and landscaping), with many types of plantings extremely hardy and able to survive during cold winters, summer heat and other extreme weather conditions. Even without irrigation or fertilization, natural gardening techniques should remain resistant to most pests and diseases. In addition to that, native plants provide habitats for many species of butterflies, birds, and other wildlife which also provide forms of pest control. These plants have co-existed with native rodents, other animals, fungi and microbes to form a complex network, which is the foundation of their native, natural communities and ecosystems.

Weeds sometimes are the result of imported plants which become invasive because there are no natural controls such as diseases, weather conditions, insects or animals. These “foreigners” (imported plants) soon take over and and actually thrive under these new conditions. In Oregon, for instance, English Ivy was introduced many years ago and now, because of the incredible spread and growth of this evil ground cover, its illegal to sell it to the public. Getting rid of this plant is now an impossible task. Control is the only option. And, if not controlled, English Ivy in Oregon would absolutely take over and destroy any other plant, including trees, in its way.

As our urban boundaries expand, new housing developments spring up,shopping centers and business complexes are built and more and more of the original fauna is being covered over, natural gardening is even more important. Having a native garden in your back yard is not only smart grocery planning, but its also a way to contribute to the welfare of this planet.

Wildflower gardens (a type of native gardening) that focus on capturing rain runoff are called rain gardens. Rain gardens use rainwater from gutters and impervious surfaces in addition to the natural falling rain. These, of course, work much better when planted with native plants tolerant to the alternate flooding and drying cycles of your particular region. Most native plants used in wildflower gardens often have deep root systems, which makes them ideal for absorbing runoff and allowing the water to filter back into the local water table.Some wildflower gardens attempt to recreate a natural landscape, which can include native grasses along with natural flowering plants to attract birds, butterflies and small mammals. Believe it or not, one popular type of wildflower garden that specializes in attracting butterflies is actually called a butterfly garden!

PROS & CONS

• no mowing
• near zero work needed for maintenance
• no fertilization required
• no additional water needed
• native plants rarely become invasive
• more water available for other uses and other people
• erosion greatly reduced
• natural landscaped plants take full advantage of rainfall
• will usually survive when water restrictions are implemented
• increased habitat for native flora and fauna

• increased wild animal intrusion (good ones and bad ones)
• in certain areas, wildfires or bushfires may be of concern
• not good for outdoor games that require a manicured turf
• poisonous plants such as poison ivy and/or poison oak may make the habitat home

So, get busy! Designing a natural or native garden is easy, if you get into the mindset of natural and plant for the future. Free advice is available at most gardening retailers and big box gardening departments. You don’t need any more tools than if you were planting a traditional garden (maybe fewer) and things like pesticides and chemicals are a thing of the past.

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Updated: October 13, 2013 — 7:30 am

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