A few green daffodil leaf blades point skyward in a protected area in our region. Early for flowers and pollinators, but now is an excellent time to consider how our backyards are a part of national wildlife conservation.
Professor Douglas Tallamy, an entomologist at the University of Delaware, has a strong message for gardeners in the March/April Horticulture magazine, available for browsing at the Yankton Community Library.
Backyards in this country account for more green space than the national parks. With much gardener cooperation, backyards could produce meaningful conservation that benefits all. He calls this idea the “Homegrown National Park program.”
Why would independent-minded gardeners consider what Tallamy proposes? Insects that pollinate our flowers and crops are in decline. He suggests that we devote half the backyard to select native plants that provide the most to pollinators to bolster the ecosystem. He says that 5% of our native plants produce 75% of caterpillars in our food web.
Tallamy says that while half the backyard landscape would be individual preference, landowners should consider these goals for the other half of their backyards to support the ecosystem that benefits all wildlife:
- Support the food web by picking “keystone” plants that benefit pollinators.
- Manage the watershed by reducing lawn size.
- Plant a diversity of the keystone plants.
- Sequester carbon.
Where does one find the keystone plants that benefit pollinators? Xerces Society is a “science-based nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.”
On the Xerces Society website, pollinator plant lists show how many insects and other invertebrates depend on particular native plants. Over time, various native plant nurseries now include the Xerces Society’s collected information in their catalogs. An example is Prairie Moon Nurseries in Minnesota.
Some gardener intermediate steps to foster conservation include:
- Consider choosing more native plants that are found naturally in the region. Tallamy suggests the National Wildlife Federation plant finder by zip code. https://nwf/org/nativeplantfinder/
- Choose native plants over their cultivars because they are well-adapted to the region.
- Don’t plant invasives, native or not.
- Re-think “weeds” to see if some support wildlife.
- Use motion sensors with yellow LEDs instead of yard lights to benefit moths.
- Appreciate established trees that pump carbon into the soil, manage rainwater,and provide cool shade on a hot day.
Lots to think about as we make landscape choices this season.
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