Archived Story

Native grasses are tolerant

Published 8:35am Monday, March 17, 2014

This year, the seeds in your lunch at garden day will be for native plants.

There are many reasons to plant natives. Not only are they tough, they are more tolerant of drought, poor soil any other crappy growing conditions.

They can resist the damages from diseases and insects. They need less maintenance, consequently less dependence on fossil fuels used to pump water or run the lawn mower.

They only need landscape conditions that match their cultural requirements. Think of milkweed. It will grow most places, but one type needs damp feet to do well.

Using native will certainly make your estate look different from your neighbors’ manicured lawn and formal rose bed. For one thing, your plants will be a much livelier place, full of butterflies, birds and pollinating insects.

This is very important as the health of many populations of pollinating insects, like bees, are in decline. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed more than 50 pollinator species that are either threatened or endangered.

Why would you want your gardens crawling with bugs, you ask? Because, the availability of native pollinators is as important as rain and sun to the reproductive success of almost half of the world’s flowering plants. Even that neighbor’s roses.

All native pollinators need native plants for their food, nesting and egg laying sites.

Indeed, some of them can’t survive without a specific native plant that either the adult or its larvae feed on. This is the reason the monarch butterfly population has declined.

Their caterpillar stage’s sole food source is the various milkweeds. Farming edge to edge of fields has reduced area for milkweeds to grow.

Planting native plants helps preserve the natural heritage of an area. This results in a base of plants for plant geneticists to draw new and improved plants from.

The genetic diversity of natives promotes the mixing of genes to form new combinations.

Your neighbors may not see eye to eye with a yard full of native plants as some of them are pretty weedy looking.

You may need to start your native garden in a hidden corner.

The rose aficionado may consider your plantings a bug infested patch of weeds. Your job is to educate the poor soul.


Bev Johnson is an Extension master gardener in Otter Tail County.



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