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.

How do you establish a natural yard?

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