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By Lynn Kunstman
Master Gardener 2012
Landscaping with native plants has many benefits. Here are seven steps you can take to help the environment and increase our declining bird populations.
1. Remove at least half your lawn: There are 45 million acres of lawn in the US, using 2 billion gallons of gasoline, creating 41 billion pounds of CO2 and 13 billion pounds of toxic and carcinogenic air pollutants emitted from leaf blowers and mowers. We spread over 100 million pounds of pernicious lawn chemicals and fertilizers. American lawns use 9 billion gallons of water A DAY! REPEAT ALL OF THE ABOVE FOR ANNUALLY!
2. Remove invasive and non-native plants from your yard: Non-native plants are carried to wild areas by animals and wind, where they often break bud and flower earlier. They provide less, or no nutrition to our native wildlife, and crowd out or outcompete our native vegetation, thereby impoverishing our ecosystems.
3. PLANT NATIVE PLANTS! Native plants build and stabilize soil, filter water, sequester carbon, provide critical habitat and food for our declining native birds, pollinators, beneficial insects and other wildlife. They support local food webs and biodiversity.
4. Avoid or minimize the use of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. All of these compounds have detrimental effects on soil health, on insect populations that support our birds, and on local water systems that support our fish.
5. Build a pollinator garden. Pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. They are in decline, and need our protection.
6. Leave the leaves! Hundreds of butterfly and moth species overwinter in leaf litter. They, along with other insects hiding there, provide critical winter food for birds. Gently rake your leaves up under your shrubs. Don’t send next summer’s butterflies to the landfill.
7. Turn off outdoor lights. Lights at night confuse and exhaust our nighttime pollinators, and cause our migrating birds to strike windows and die. Install motion sensor lights, or YELLOW LED lights outside.
By choosing to grow native plants and decreasing the size of your lawn, you make a commitment to help the environment and save our struggling birds and pollinators. If you are already growing native plants in your yard, then consider getting on the Homegrown National Park registry.
Here are more resources:
Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard: Dr. Doug Tallamy, Timber Press
Nature’s Best Hope: YouTube video
Oregon Flora: Beautiful website to help you find the NATIVE plants to go into your landscape. Sort by size, water requirements, flower color, etc.
Rogue Native Plant Partnership: Native plants and seeds, assists with planning for native landscapes
Homegrown National Park Movement: By removing half the lawns in the U.S., we could grow more acreage in native plants than we have in all our national parks combined.
Native Plant Finder: Keystone plants by zip code.
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