How do you establish a natural yard?

One day, That Blogger was taking a walk, and encountered some neighbors sitting in their driveway, enjoying the profusion of native plants that surrounded their home. “Your yard is one of my favorites,” That Blogger said. “How did you do it?”

The neighbors smiled.

What was their response? It was not work. Nor was it money. It wasn’t even knowledge.

What the neighbors said was: “Time.”

As explained in a series of previous posts, time is the key ingredient in successfully establishing a natural yard. Plants know how to grow and reproduce, and will do so if just given a chance. A compulsion to constantly work in the garden – to water, mulch, trim, and spray pesticides – only interferes with the natural behavior of plants, and can quickly become counterproductive.

Similarly, throwing money at the problem – by investing in tools and chemicals, buying larger plants, or hiring landscapers who claim they can make your yard look like a magazine photo virtually overnight – disrupts the natural processes that lead slowly but powerfully towards a thriving ecosystem.

And, while knowledge can certainly help a gardener move efficiently towards the outcome they envision, it’s not necessary to have an encyclopedic knowledge of botany and ecology before beginning to establish a natural yard. It’s important to remember that when your goal is for plants to grow and flourish in a healthy community, the plants have the same idea. When we work with nature instead of against it, our odds of success vastly improve.

Still, it’s one thing to know all of that while looking at a plot of land that has not yet begun to transform into a native plant community. It’s quite another to look at a well-established natural yard, and hear the gardener tell you that the most important thing they did was wait.

Have patience with your garden and with yourself. A great part of the joy of having a natural yard is watching it grow and develop. Some day in the future, when you are the happy gardener sitting at ease in your driveway and watching your plants take care of themselves, you will look back in wonder at those fleeting years when your yard changed from a barren space to what you now enjoy.

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How do you establish a natural yard?

What happens when an area has a lot of natural yards?

A post from a few months ago reported that when a HOA changed its landscaping from turf grass to native plants, it won awards. But that’s just one natural yard. What happens when a small geographical area has a lot of natural yards?

It wins awards.

Last fall, Medina County in northeastern Ohio accomplished its goal of having 400 natural yards. The tally included 360 private yards, 13 gardens at schools, 20 gardens on farms, and 7 gardens in public places. A garden counted towards the total if it provided the four things that wildlife need: food, water, cover, and places to raise their young.

After officially reaching its goal, Medina County received an award from the National Wildlife Federation, honoring them for their achievement in providing wildlife habitat. The county originally decided to embark on this project in order to help pollinators – and, indeed, gardens that counted towards the goal have been observed to host more pollinators and other wildlife.

Medina County doesn’t plan to stop establishing native plant gardens now that it’s had this important success. Rather, the county is seeking to add 100 more gardens to its tally each year for the next several years.

The fact that Medina County wants to create lots of native plant gardens is important. In doing so, the county is making a statement that native plant gardens are not harmful or unsightly. It is saying that native plant gardens should not be tightly restricted in number or size or location. It is expressing its belief that, when it comes to native plant gardens, you can hardly have too much of a good thing.

Native plant gardens are good. More of them is better. You can do your part by adding native plants to your land, and by encouraging friends and neighbors to do the same.

What happens when an area has a lot of natural yards?