What is plant rescue?

The previous post told a happy story about a native plant garden being acquired by some new owners. Not all stories have such positive endings, though. Sometimes a natural yard – or a wild area brimming with native plants – is bought by someone who isn’t interested in protecting the thriving ecosystem they now own.

It could be a private homeowner who doesn’t understand the value of native plants, and who plans to revert the garden to lawn. It could be a developer who intends to bulldoze the plant community in order to build a big-box store or some condominiums. Either way, those plants are in trouble.

Enter plant rescue.

If you know of native plants – especially rare species – that are going to be destroyed by the property owner, you may be able to save the plants by moving them to a new home. While you might be tempted to just swoop in and take the plants before they get flattened, it’s better to follow these practices:

  • Work with the property owner to get permission to remove the plants from the site. Agree on a time when the plant rescue will happen, and take full responsibility for the safety of all the people who will be involved in the plant rescue.
  • Provide all the necessary tools for digging up and transporting plants. Don’t forget to bring drinking water and wear appropriate clothing for working outdoors.
  • Once on site, be sure to stay within the property lines. Do not take plants from neighboring lots.
  • Take only the plants that you can truly rescue. That is, do not take more plants than you will be able to quickly place in a new home. If there are any rare species present, prioritize rescuing those.
  • Follow good plant-moving practices: Dig up a large ball of soil around and beneath each plant. Have a pot ready to immediately transfer the plant into. Put the plant back in the ground, at its new site, within a day or so – and provide it with shade and water to help it survive the move.
  • Before leaving the plant rescue site, refill the holes from the plants you took. Clean up after yourself and repair any damage you might have caused.
  • Afterwards, send a thank-you letter to the property owner.

If property owners can be persuaded to keep healthy native plants on their land, so much the better. But if not, working together to find creative solutions can be the next best thing.

What is plant rescue?

What happens when a natural yard gets sold?

“What will you do when you have to move out and can’t control what the next person does with the yard?” That Blogger once asked a dedicated natural gardener who was beyond retirement age.

“Never come back,” the gardener replied.

A pair of natural gardeners in Minnesota took a different approach to this problem: they showed up on their former home’s porch to talk to the new owners about the thriving ecosystem they had established in the yard.

The new owners hadn’t been looking for a natural yard, and hadn’t even realized they were getting one: they bought the home in winter, when snow made it hard to tell that the house was surrounded by anything other than lawn. But just a day after they moved in, the previous occupants dropped by to talk about the eight years of effort they had invested in replacing non-native turf grass with a healthy prairie.

Their friendly outreach worked. The new owners have been tending the native landscape for over a decade now, adding more species of plants and removing the small amount of turf grass that remained, preserving the sustainable habitat that their predecessors established.

One downside of working hard to create a natural yard is that we can’t take it with us. (Some have been sued by their property’s new owners for trying.) It is for this reason that many people, not expecting to stay in their homes for very long, don’t invest in a long-term landscaping plan.

But, with nature being lost all around us at an alarming rate, we must do all we can to protect the nature that we have preserved or restored. Just as it is our responsibility to educate friends and neighbors about why our yard hosts thriving plants rather than a barren lawn, it is our responsibility to educate our successors, when we pass on the stewardship of our land. As leaders in the growing movement towards natural yards, it is our duty to help new homeowners understand that they are inheriting a landscape that reduces waste, combats climate change, requires little maintenance, supports life, and creates joy. Destroying such a self-sustaining ecosystem and turning it back into a needy, labor-intensive, lifeless lawn is as much a loss for the new owners as it is for those who worked so hard to do exactly the opposite.

By sharing our knowledge, we can all work together to restore nature to our neighborhoods.

What happens when a natural yard gets sold?

What is the Anthropocene?

Just as we divide our lives into months and years to help us keep track of passing time, scientists divide the history of our planet into geological eras. We met some of these eras in the previous post: the Permian, the Triassic, the Cretaceous, the Paleogene.

The last post also mentioned the Holocene era. The Holocene has been going on for 10,000 years now, and it’s been very important in the history of our species. While humans essentially identical to those of us living today have been around for 200,000 years or so, human civilization – in the form of cities and farming – only arose about 8,000 years ago. Why is this?

For most of our planet’s history, living conditions have been wildly unstable. Continents moved around. Sea levels rose and fell dramatically. Glaciers advanced and retreated. Nobody could stay in one place for too long.

But all that changed in the Holocene. For thousands of years – a long time for living things, even if not much more than a blink for a planet – the climate was remarkably stable. The weather changed in a predictable way from season to season, and humans were able to learn these patterns and time their farming activities to greatly increase their chances of a successful crop. Once we were able to produce food from fixed locations, we could start living in the same place year-round – and because the oceans remained at consistent levels, we were able to build our cities along reliable shorelines.

Now, though, the stable conditions that defined the Holocene are changing. They’re changing so much that scientists have proposed labeling the present day as a brand-new geological era: the Anthropocene, the Age of Man.

A period of time gets marked off as its own geological era when it is distinctly different from surrounding time periods. Our own time is not in the geological record yet, but scientists are certain that when it is, our own activities will be clearly visible – if, several million years in the future, there is anyone around to look.

The record of our time will include evidence of the mass extinction that is already underway. It will preserve signs of increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and of rising global temperatures caused by this increase. It will contain the remains of human garbage. And it will bear the imprints of how we changed the landscape by building vast cities, engaging in industrial agriculture, and destroying ancient forests.

Although the Anthropocene is not really an official geological era yet, there is no turning back from the changes that it represents. Human-scale time is cyclical: we know that March and spring will come again. But geological time goes in only one direction. The Holocene is never coming back.

What is the Anthropocene?