What’s going on in That Yard?

This is the 100th post on That Blog. While the blog was started just over a year ago, That Yard has been a work in progress for three summers. Since permaculture practitioners say it takes three years for a design to come together and start functioning as a self-sustaining system, this seems like a good time to review what’s going on in That Yard.

The first summer was spent observing, learning about the site conditions, and planning for subsequent years.

In the second summer, several different plantings were established. These formed the nuclei for miniature ecosystems, including a prairie, a forest, and a rain garden.

In the third year, these ecosystems were expanded on, and remaining unconverted areas were turned into a Hugelkultur bed and a pond. Now the entire yard is planted with native species, except for a few oddly-shaped corners, which will be filled in next year.

All of this has been accomplished with no chemicals and no powered equipment. What have been the effects?

First, life abounds. At any given time, from early spring through late fall, multiple species of plants are flowering. These plants attract a wide assortment of pollinators, among them bumblebees and monarch butterflies. The yard has hosted at least 49 species of birds, and thanks to the pond, a pair of frogs has recently moved in.

There are lots of benefits for people, too. All those plants provide plenty of clean air for the neighborhood. They don’t need to be mown, eliminating noise and air pollution. They capture rain before it reaches the street, while taking nothing from municipal water supplies.

What remains to be done? In summers four and five, the new plants will continue to get established. As they do, the number of species flowering will increase, and the odd corners will fill in. Non-native species, such as buckthorn and garlic mustard, will be pulled out to help with this process.

Before long, the yard will be a healthy, mature system, providing a variety of benefits and requiring minimal work.

Like any kind of transition, establishing a natural yard can be difficult and messy. But success is virtually guaranteed, and the results are more than worth it!

What’s going on in That Yard?

2 thoughts on “What’s going on in That Yard?

  1. Barbara A Carter says:

    Janette, I am so proud of you. I am a fellow MHC alumna, class of 1970, widowed, retired and living in Monroe, a little town (by my standards, being a native Easterner) in south central WI. I am very interested in your studies and your work. I’m wondering what is the best place to start this in my backyard, up against the house, or against my back property line? I have no idea how large my backyard is in acreage, but I have fairly close neighbors, and I would like to avoid any problems with them until I have something established. I think I just answered my own question. I start close to the house. Right? Time for research on native plants! Again, I am very proud of you and wish you the best. Regards, Barbara A Carter


    1. Hi Barbara,

      There are several good reasons to start your native gardening endeavors close to the house. First, you are right that keeping natives away from property lines, at least at first, is likely to reduce conflicts with neighbors. Second, putting new plantings closer to yourself raises the chances that you’ll visit them often and give them any care they need.

      As always, though, it’s important to match plants to site conditions. The part of the yard closest to the house often is shady and dry, which can be tough for many species. Be sure to choose plants that don’t mind this type of situation.

      I can see you’ve put a lot of thought into this, which is always a great way to start. Good luck and happy gardening!


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