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Reflections on Gardening for Wildlife

By: Stacey Wildberger

For many years I typically chose plants for the garden because they were pretty, they caught my eye or smelled good.  These days, about 5 years now, I have begun to think more about what can the plant offer to the local fauna? What is its role in the ecosystem?  Is it a host plant for a butterfly’s caterpillar? Is it providing a spot for an insect to overnight or tuck its babies in safely?  Does it perform a function in the ecosystem? I have begun to re-think pretty and have quiet compassion for the ones who have no voice. 

My backyard

I am beginning to see the many rewards for the change in my way of thinking. Every evening when I go out into the yard I look around at every leaf, stem and bloom, I am searching for signs of life. A caterpillar feasting on its favorite host plant, a solitary bee placing her babies in the hollow tubes of the leftover flower stalks.  The ones I left standing over the winter then only cut back to 12-18” in late spring so that these bees and other insects might lay their babies in them.  A safe sanctuary.  I am searching for pollinators of various sizes, happily feeding on the nectar of the blooms of the native flowers I have planted for them.  The plants that they have spent thousands of years co-evolving with.  The ones that will provide the best nourishment for them. 

I gaze into my pond, looking for signs of life.  Did a turtle make his home, after eating the fruit off their favorite food-the mayapples?  Did a frog decide to take up residence amongst the water plants?  Was that a pickerelweed frog I heard jump into the water from his spot on the plant named for him- the pickerelweed?  Are there tadpoles or dragonfly nymphs growing in the pond—waiting to eat the mosquito larvae?  I look up into the air, searching for the dragonflies themselves who will also feast on the mosquitoes.  No need for sprays and nasty chemicals here with a balanced ecosystem.  The balance comes from a self-contained ecosystems.  The beneficial insects taking care of the pests.  Keeping them in check.  Without sprays to kill the good bugs they are around to eat the bad bugs; the way nature intended.  A great example of this natural pest management control is the Braconidae, a member of the wasp family and friend to gardeners.  Yes, a wasp that is your friend.  These wasps (there are 15,000 species of them) are parasitoids, meaning they are parasite of their host, that is their larva eats their host insect alive (yikes!).  Their favorite meals include some of gardener’s biggest pests-caterpillars, beetles, aphids, squash bugs, ad stink bugs.  They often specialize in a particular pest.  One particular enemy of the home gardener is the Tomato hornworm, if the Cotesia congregata wasp deposits her eggs into the tomato Hornworm it weakens the caterpillar as the eggs develop and it eventually dies-preventing the defoliation of your tomato plants.  If you see these larvae emerging from the tomato or tobacco hornworm, nature is doing its own pest management!

Infected tobacco hornworm

As I continue to walk my backyard ecosystem I am rewarded with several butterflies because of the host plants I have been adding.  Of course the Monarch is the result of 1 of 3 types of Asclepias sp. milkweed I have offered, swamp, common and butterfly weed. 

Butterfly weed

What about the American Painted Lady flitting around the front yard – from the Antennaria sp. Pussytoes I offered for her to lay her eggs on.  The Black Swallowtails are happy to lay their eggs on the parsley, dill and native Zizia Golden Alexander.  How about the never-before-seen-in-my-yard Question Mark butterfly because I added her host plant this year-Boehmeria false nettle?  I wouldn’t have seen her if I didn’t plant false nettle this spring.  So many Skippers from the asters, grasses, such as Panicum switchgrass, Sorghastrum nutans Indiangrass, and a variety of sedges.  The sassafras is allowed to self-sow so that they may host Spicebush caterpillars.  The same reason I planted Lindera benzoin Spicebush.  My paw-paw trees, though small now may someday provide a spot for the Zebra swallowtails to lay their eggs.  Every plant selected for what benefit it can provide wildlife.  How is it increasing biodiversity and enhancing the ecosystems?  Did I mention the small violets that volunteer in my yard?  They are often considered weedy but not only do they make an excellent groundcover but without them we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the fritterly butterflies in our yards!

Beardtongue

We have not even admired the berry-producing trees and shrubs that provide nourishment to so many songbirds.  The Aronia Red Chokeberry, the spring offerings of the Amelanchier Serviceberry, Juniperus virginiana Eastern Red Cedars to attract the Cedar Wax wings, Callicarpa americana Beautyberry with its eye catching purple berries, Ilex verticillata Winterberry and their vibrant red berries, the wild cherries that I do not like the look of most of the time but the Robins are feasting on right now so I leave them.  The American Holly trees that are another favorite of many songbirds, as well as a favorite nesting area in the spring.  Another member of the Holly family (Ilex glabra) offering its dark ink colored berries up for the autumn feast-the Inkberry shrub.  Most nights you can find me outside, puttering around the garden, “working” on this or that but what I am really doing is reaping the benefits of having gardened for wildlife.  Putting the needs of nature in front of my own need or desire for a “pretty’ garden.  The end result is pretty on the inside and out.  I am sitting in one of several places in my yard that offer me a window into the ecosystem in my own backyard.  In times of climate change and mass extinction our backyard (and front) gardens provide a refuge for wildlife, a place where an ecosystem can exist.  The food web can exist—butterfly lays her eggs on a nearby host plant, the chickadee raising her clutch of babies in a nearby cavity scoops up the caterpillar to feed her babies (she needs up to 9,000 caterpillars to raise 1 clutch of chicks), and on up the line.  It can start in our own backyard.  It has to start there, because of loss of habitat and over development, wildlife can no longer simply exist “somewhere out there”  If we are all creating these mini ecosystems soon they will stitch together forming even larger areas of habitat.  We can find peace in our own landscapes and feel good about what we are providing.

Honeysuckle

Monarchs: Inside or Out?

By: Stacey Wildberger

In these times of mass extinction and climate change we sometimes feel helpless and ineffectual in our actions but we can make a difference one backyard at a time. Doug Tallamy writes in his book “Bringing Nature Home” the idea that our own small pieces on earth –our backyards- can be the difference in restoring ecosystems.  What better way to do this than by planting native plants that support pollinators and food webs.  Providing the host plants needed for our butterflies to lay their eggs because caterpillars can usually eat only one type of plant.  There are many relationships between insects and plants but the most widely recognized is the link between Monarch Butterflies and Milkweed.  Monarchs must have milkweed to lay their eggs.  When the egg hatches the caterpillar grows through various instar phases until he is ready to form his chrysalis where he will emerge as the iconic Monarch Butterfly.  Beyond milkweed though these Monarchs need nectar to support their long migration in the fall. 

Many people have started collecting the eggs they see on their milkweed, along with the milkweed plants, to raise them indoors. There are of course two viewpoints if this is the best way to help Monarchs.  Advocates for raising Monarchs indoors claim they are increasing their chances of survival by keeping them away from predators.  What they are ignoring is the caterpillars place in the food web; 97% of terrestrial birds are reared on caterpillars and other insects.  It takes 7000-9000 caterpillars to raise a clutch of chickadees.  Without the caterpillars for the birds to feed their young many will perish.

Beyond the fact that you are removing an important food source from the food web there are many other reasons to leave the Monarchs in the garden and let nature take its course.  Raising Monarchs indoors can have many negative effects on the butterflies themselves.  They are often smaller than wild raised ones-just a millimeter difference in wings size can have deadly results on their migration to Mexico.  They often do not develop the correct physiology to migrate, have under-developed reproductive organs and, instead of having the instinct to breed, they are cued up just to fuel up on nectar.  Being exposed to an indoor environment with artificial light, constant temperature and top choice of milkweed provided by their captors they do not develop the environmental cues needed for pre-migratory behaviors.   There is also a higher chance of developing OE (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha), a harmful protozoan that can be blamed on the overcrowded and unhygienic conditions of indoor living.  The butterfly may seem healthy but can spread this deformity causing disease to other butterflies.  Even worse when these infected Monarchs are released they spread it to the wild population, thereby causing more harm than the good that was intended (i.e., helping boost populations).

Of course it is exciting and an educational experience for child to see the full life cycle of these beautiful butterflies so I am not saying not to raise a few in the classroom or living room for the wonderment and discovery of youth but the widespread collection of eggs and even ordering them online (!) can and will cause more devastation than the problems of loss of habitat, disease, weather issues and predation. 

Instead of collecting eggs and raising them indoors, what can we do to help?  Provide milkweed.  Lots of milkweed for them to lay their eggs.  Make sure the milkweed you are planting is native to your area.  In Maryland we have Whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate), Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) to choose from.  Choose the one or ones that are right for your conditions.  While swamp prefers a little moisture the others thrive in just about the worst conditions you can throw at them.  In addition to providing their host plant, milkweed, they require plants they can nectar on in during the fall migration.  There are many beautiful fall blooming nectar plants you can provide for them.

  • Goldenrod (Solidago sp.)
  • Asters sp.  New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricate)
  • Conoclinium coelestinum Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)
  • Joe_Pye Weed (Eutrochiumsp.)
  • Boneset (Eupatorium sp.)
  • Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus)
  • Tall coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris)

As always is my advice (I probably sound like a broken record) the best you can do is plant native plants, natives that are hosts to our native fauna, native plants that provide nectar and pollen to our native pollinators and native plants that provide nesting and resting places as well.  When in doubt, choose native plants over the ornamentals.  Whenever possible choose the straight species over a cultivar that has had its bloom shape, color and height changed to fit our idea of pretty the last thing I implore you to do is not to plant Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii).  While the name may imply you are doing right by the butterflies you are in fact providing the equivalent of a sugary soda or candy and not much else in the way of national value.  Not only that, but they do not host any butterfly larvae and they are highly invasive.  Their seed is spread into our natural areas thanks to the birds and outcompetes native plants.  If you have them in your yard and absolutely won’t remove it at least be vigilant about removing the dead seed heads to keep it from spreading.  There are some lovely alternatives to butterfly bush if you wish to replace it with a native:

Shrubs:

  • Southern arrowwood (Viburum dentatum)
  • Sweet pepperbush(Clethra alnifolia)
  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
  • New Jersey tea(Ceanothus americanus)

Herbaceous perennials

  • Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
  • Asters sp.  New England Aster, Aromatic Aster
  • Purple Coneflower(Echinacea purpurea)

RAIN GARDENS

“Slow it Down, Spread it Out, Soak it In”

By Stacey Wildberger

In the Cape Conservation Corps stated vision for our community we envision the elimination of “destructive storm water runoff and erosion from properties”.  One of the tools to accomplish this goal is Rain Gardens.  By controlling storm water we can improve the health of our local waterways by “slowing it down, spreading it out and soaking it in” –which is what a rain garden does. The purpose of a rain garden is to reduce storm water runoff, remove pollutants, create pollinator habitat and offer an attractive landscape feature.

What is a rain garden?  It is a shallow depression in the landscape that collects runoff from rooftops, driveways, and the yard. A rain garden is graded as a shallow depression as opposed to a typical landscaped area that is raised several inches.  A simple explanation is that it is a sunken garden filled with plants that are adapted to wet conditions.

A primary component of a rain garden is a filter bed, which allows the runoff to soak into the ground slowly and spread it out.  The filter can be assembled on site as a mixture of sand, soil, and organic material topped with mulch and heavily planted with native, moisture-loving plants.  It can also use the existing on-site soil if it percolates properly.

The plants in the rain garden should be able to withstand very wet to sometimes dry conditions because during a storm, rain water will collect 4-12” above the mulch layer before it filters into the soil (typically in 1-2 days).  During times of drought it can become drier.  The plants inside the rain garden basin should be able to tolerate wet feet while plants on the outer edges or berms will be plants that do not like it that wet.

Rain gardens can range from the simple design for the home landscape to moderate design suitable for a small business with several parking spots and a larger rood surface than a residence, to a more complex rain garden for commercial and industrial buildings with larger parking lots, rooftops and other impervious surfaces.

We will talk about the simple rain garden that you may want to consider for your home landscape.  The typical size for a home rain garden is 60-180 square feet in area to treat runoff from your home roof, driveway and yard areas, with a total drainage area of ¼ acre (10,000 sq. feet) or less – the size of an average Cape lot.  The water will enter from gutter downspouts or as sheet flow into the rain garden.  You can hire a qualified landscape designer and contractor who has had experience designing and installing rain gardens and then you, as the homeowner, can install the native plants and mulch and maintain the garden.

Any good landscape feature should have a suitable maintenance plan, especially in the early months of establishing the garden.  The maintenance will decrease once the rain garden has been firmly established (within 2-3 years) but it will require a few tune ups along the way.  During the first couple of months the plants will need to be watered as needed (less frequently if Mother Nature provides).  You may experience about 10% failure rate of the plants so plan on replacing them as needed. During the first 6 months and periodically afterwards you will want to check and replace eroded areas, check in inlets and overflow areas for debris or leaves that may be blocking them.

In late spring you can check over the plants for damage that may have occurred over the winter, add mulch if your plants have not filled in to create their own green mulch layer.  The perennials stems can also be cut back (remember we left them standing over the winter to allow our beneficial bugs a place to hide).  Remember one of the benefits to a rain garden is the habitat it provides pollinators. It is important to note that those plants we left standing all winter ARE NOT DEAD they are DORMANT and they are doing their job of providing a place for insects to overwinter.  Do not make the mistake of assuming they didn’t survive and rip them out.  You will have just set your rain garden value back to zero.  The roots that have been setting down growth under the soil will have been wasted.  Plants that took 2-3 years to establish these deep roots will be replaced with new plants that will have to start all over again.  You may need to edit some plants, or add additional plants but most is salvageable and just needs to be given the chance to grow when spring comes.

A few fall chores include adding to plants to increase density (the more plants the better!), prune shrubs as needed, thin (and share) excessive herbaceous plants and remove the excess (but not totally) the leaf matter. Finally, you should remove invasive weeds, dead or diseased plants, stabilize bare areas and remove any debris/trash that accumulates on an as needed and ongoing basis .

Rain gardens can not only control runoff and clean water before it re-enters the waterways but it can provided a beautiful landscape feature that benefits pollinators by creating habitat, providing food sources, and host plants for their young. If you are considering adding a rain garden to your home landscape please visit the following website to get more detailed information.

http://aawsa.org/raingardens

And then email at vp@capeconservationcorps.org to nominate you and your new rain garden as the next Habitat Hero!

A Second Look at Green Mulch – Combat Plants with Plants

By: Stacey Wildberger

As Spring is upon us and we are anxious to get out in our gardens to see what is popping up and making plans for what new plants we can add this year, let’s talk about an often forgotten layer in your landscape – the groundcover or Green Mulch Layer.  I have written about it in previous posts but I think it is important enough to discuss again. So many times we plan a new garden bed, stick a few plants in the ground and then surround it with mulch -brown wood chips or even worse dyed wood chips.  The plants are like little islands in a sea of mulch; never allowed to touch one another or socialize.  Plants are social organisms that desire the companionship of their plants friends, even more than that, they depend on it for communication.

As Spring is upon us and we are anxious to get out in our gardens to see what is popping up and making plans for what new plants we can add this year, let’s talk about an often forgotten layer in your landscape – the groundcover or Green Mulch Layer.  I have written about it in previous posts but I think it is important enough to discuss again. So many times we plan a new garden bed, stick a few plants in the ground and then surround it with mulch -brown wood chips or even worse dyed wood chips.  The plants are like little islands in a sea of mulch; never allowed to touch one another or socialize.  Plants are social organisms that desire the companionship of their plants friends, even more than that, they depend on it for communication.

Plantain-leaved pussytoes – Canadian wildginger

My first suggestion is to ignore those plant tags “spacing requirements” and plant them closer together.  A good rule of thumb is 12” apart (although I have been known to go even a little closer). The plants will be much happier as they can transmit beneficial information to each other, sharing information and resources such as “insects are attacking me”.  Another disadvantage to these mulch seas or beds is by leaving all that open space you are susceptible to weeds coming in and taking over, increasing your maintenance — nobody wants to spend time pulling weeds! If you plant more densely, and use groundcovers to fill in the bare spots you will save a lot of time.

Creek sedge – Pennsylvania sedge

By layering your plants in varying heights and structures you will begin to create more habitat, attracting natural predators to control the pests.  You will begin to build an ecosystem that is not only attractive to our eye but to nature as well. Your garden will morph over time, the early established plants will out compete the weeds early on and will gradually allow the slower plants to take over.  A few simple edits along the way will allow you to maintain an aesthetically pleasing garden.

Robin’s plantain – Appalachan barren strawberry

There are many plants that can be used as green mulch or groundcover and will suppress weeds, cover the ground and add interest to an otherwise barren sea of mulch.  By using plants as mulch you will also be increasing the sources of pollen and nectar needed for a dwindling number of insects.  These plants will spread by seed, rhizomes or both.  Because they are quick to establish, low maintenance and have a low growth height they are the perfect choice for green mulching.

Purple-leaved loosestrife – Allegheny pachysandra

Below is a partial list that North Creek Nurseries recommended for green mulch, which are also favorites of mine, plus a few of my own suggestions.

  1. Antennaria plantaginifolia – Plantain-leaved pussytoes – Light: full sun to part shade | Soil: lean to moderate fertility, dry to average moisture | Height: 6-12″
  2. Asarum canadense – Canadian wildgingerLight: part shade to full shade | Soil: moderate fertility, slightly dry to moist moisture | Height: 6-12″
  3. Carex amphibola – Creek sedge – Light: full sun to full shade | Soil: moderate fertility, dry to average moisture | Height: 8-12″
  4. Carex pensylvanica  – Pennsylvania sedgeLight: part sun to full shade | Soil: moderate fertility, dry to average moisture | Height: 8-10″
  5. Erigeron pulchellus var. pulchellus ‘Lynnhaven Carpet’  Robin’s plantain – Light: full sun to full shade | Soil: lean to moderate fertility, dry to moist moisture | Height: 6-12″ (foliage)
  6. Waldsteinia fragaroides – Appalachian barren strawberryLight: full sun to full shade | Soil: lean to moderate fertility, dry to moist moisture | Height: 3-6″
  7. Lysimachia lanceolata var. purpurea – Purple lance-leaved loosestrife Light: full sun to part shade | Soil: lean to moderate fertility, average to moist moisture | Height: 12-24″
  8. Pachysandra procumbens – Allegheny pachysandraLight: part sun to full shade | Soil: moderate fertility, average to moist moisture | Height: 6-10″
  9. Packera aurea – Golden ragwortLight: full sun to full shade | Soil: lean to moderate fertility, average to moist moisture | Height: 6-12″
  10.  Packera obovata – Roundleaf ragwort – Light: full sun to full shade | Soil: lean to moderate fertility, dry to moist moisture | Height: 6-12″
  11. Chrysogonum virginianum – Green and gold – Light: part shade | Soil: Moist but well drained, to drier soils | Height: 6-8”

In addition to reducing weeds in your garden, using these groundcovers can offer additional benefits in the natural areas of our community.  Author Nancy Lawson, “The Humane Gardener” discovered by accident that Packera aurea Golden ragwort could be used to combat the dreaded invasive Alliaria petiolata Garlic mustard.  Some forgotten pots were left under a tree, they escaped the pot and began to choke out the garlic mustard.  What better way to rid an area of an invasive plant than by planting a native one. 

Golden ragwort – Roundleaf ragwort

Garlic mustard is a problem is many of the roadside ravines and natural areas in our community so we have decided to put Nancy’s findings to the test.  We will be planting 200 plus of Packera aurea in the Ravine leading to Lake Claire on April 6th.  We will plant 10-12 plants in 5-ft circles where the garlic mustard is most prolific and see if it can smother the garlic mustard growing there.  We will not be pulling or digging the invasive plant so we can minimize soil disturbance and leave the seed bank buried! In addition to the 200 plugs at the Ravine we will plant another 100 plants as a green mulch layer at the Little Magothy Rain Garden on the same day.  We are hoping to suppress the weeds that continue to cause problems.  If you are interested in helping please contact me at vp@capeconservationcorps.org. Great for Scouts, NJHS or NHS hours or just because! 

Green and gold – also see top photo

For more information on Green Mulch and other great gardening ideas please check out the following resources:

  1. Nancy Lawson, author of “The Humane Gardener” and wildlife blogger. Her website is https://www.humanegardener.com/ and her book can be found @ Amazon
    https://www.amazon.com/Humane-Gardener-Nurturing-Backyard-Wildlife/dp/1616895543
  2. Benjamin Vogt, author of “A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future” and blogger. His website can be found at
    https://www.monarchgard.com/ and his book is available through Amazon
    https://www.amazon.com/New-Garden-Ethic-Cultivating-Compassion/dp/0865718555/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=benjamin+vogt&qid=1551122712&s=books&sr=1-1
  3. And finally check out Thomas Rainer and Claudia West’s book “Planting in a Post-Wild World” for a great description of green mulch and groundcover layer.
    https://www.amazon.com/Planting-Post-Wild-World-Communities-Landscapes/dp/1604695536/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=claudia+west&qid=1551122907&s=books&sr=1-1

Preparing Your Site for a Successful Garden

By: Stacey Wildberger

Preparing an area to install a new garden is an important step that must be done with care and consideration. The site needs to be clear of all existing vegetation in order to minimize weed growth.  How you prepare the site will affect the environment and the success of your garden.  There are many weed seeds hidden in the soil.   Once the soil is disturbed and the seeds are exposed to sunlight, they will quickly sprout and take over the area making establishing your plants more difficult.  One of the worst things you can do is till the area as this will quickly bring dormant seeds to the surface.

We will examine four methods to prepare your site to minimize disturbance and be safe for the environment.  Even though synthetic herbicides such as Round-Up are effective and cheaper than organic herbicides their long term effects can be devastating to the ecosystem.  The process of site preparation should not be rushed; don’t be in a hurry to plant or sow your seeds.  The better prepared your site is the less time you will spend controlling weeds in the garden down the road.

Smother method is the process of using organic material to kill the vegetation.  You will need some basic tools such as a wheelbarrow, mower, shovel and rake in addition to newspaper, cardboard, organic product and mulch.  Start by mowing the area in the design you wish the garden to be, cover with 4-5 layers of newspaper, then 1 layer of cardboard, spread weed free mulch over the top and level it off.  The next step is the hardest-let it sit for 3-12 months! I like to either start the process in early spring and plant in the fall or prep in the fall for spring planting.  Once you are ready to start planting, cut a slit in the cardboard and newspaper if it is not fully decomposed and plant directly into the hole you formed.  Tip: do not use plastics or other non-organic materials that will not decompose over time or add nutrients to the soil.  They can also generate too much heat, killing the good soil organisms. To speed up this process you could spray the area with a non-synthetic natural herbicide prior to layering the newspaper.

Strip method involves removing the vegetation, including the roots with a sod cutter or hand tools.  This method can be a little costlier if you need to rent the tools but it allows you to remove a large area of vegetation quickly.  The composted sod becomes rich soil that can be used in other areas as well.  Start by defining the shape of your bed using a garden hose, paint or flags then strip the vegetation in your area with the sod cutter to remove it—composting it. Apply a natural herbicide to any new growth.  Tip: you can use the smother method to prevent the re-growth if you are plating plugs or plants, not seeds.

Spray method uses non-synthetic, natural herbicides to kill the vegetation.  You will need a tank sprayer, safety glasses, gloves, dust mask, spreader and a chemical safe measuring cup as well as Colorant, blood or alfalfa meal, water and herbicide.  There are several benefits to this method, including being able to cover a large area, and when used on slopes it can diminish erosion.  The negatives are cost (a concentrate can save you money), and you may have to apply up to 6 applications and it still won’t kill certain vegetation, including woody plants.  Once again stake your design, mix the concentrate with water, mixing only what you will need for the measured area, spray evenly and repeat until all vegetation is killed off.  Now you can plant! Examples of natural herbicides are Burnout, Matran, Scythe, and Natures’s Avenger.

Speed is the final method; it involves stop mowing and plant directly into the lawn.  With a few simple steps to avoid soil disturbance you can begin planting immediately with this low cost, environmentally friendly method. This method works great if you are trying to establish a meadow. Select your plants, dig a hole about twice the diameter of the pot, shake off the loose dirt, place the plant in the hole and fill it with the soil from the area.  There is no need to amend the soil if you are choosing native plants, they do not need it!  All it will do is encourage strong growth of the weeds. Right plant, right place.  You can mulch deeply around the plants in the beginning until the plants begin to establish themselves and grow together to form “green mulch”.

As always, I encourage you to choose native plants to add to your newly established gardens as the local fauna has co-evolved with these native plants over thousands of years and they depend on each other for their survival.  You may see native pollinators on a non-native plant but many times it is not getting everything it needs nutritionally from that plant—like when we eat ice cream and other junk foods.  Your landscape can provide two things living creatures need, food source and a place to live, make it the best environment for them to not only survive but thrive in.  Please choose the best plants for this-Native Plants.

If you begin your site prep this spring it will be ready for fall planting.  You can stop by Cape Conservation Corps annual Fall Plant Fest for a great selection of native plants at low prices and speak to the many experts we will have on hand to answer your questions.  Happy Planting!

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