For a Healthy Yard, Go Native!

Native plants in landscape setting.

Native plants in landscape setting.

A healthy yard is full of plants and trees that are supported by the natural environment, provide food and habitat for pollinators and wildlife, and do not require costly and polluting measures to allow them to thrive.

Native species are adapted to the normal weather extremes, expected rainfall, and the other native plants and animals indigenous to the area in which they evolved.  As a result, once native species are established they require much less maintenance than non-native species. They require less watering, little or no pesticides and fertilizers, and less trimming and upkeep. They also provide food and shelter for up to 10-15 times more species of birds, butterflies and other native wildlife, and they do not spread and choke out other plants like many non-native, invasive species do.

This means you:

  • Save water
  • Limit toxins on your yard
  • Provide food and shelter to native birds, butterflies and wildlife
  • Save money
  • Save time
  • Have a beautiful, healthy yard
  • Are a good steward of the land and water

So, why not, go native!?

Courtesy of Glenn Ticehurst

Courtesy of Glenn Ticehurst

There are plenty of resources out there to find great species that will thrive in your yard and look beautiful, too!

Click on the links below for more information.

Native Alternatives to Invasive Landscape Plants. This presentation by Water and Land Use Task Force Member Glenn Ticehurst suggests native plants to choose over common non-native landscape plants. Replace Yellow Flag Iris, Burning Bush, Multiflora Rose, Japanese Stiltgrass, and Norway Maple with even more lovely native plants.

Westchester County Native Plant Brochure: This brief but wonderful pamphlet gives helpful tips on getting started with natives, lists resources, and provides a chart with recommended native species for landscaping in Westchester County, including trees, shrubs, ferns, flowering plants, and grasses.

The Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College provides the two lists below of recommended native plants for gardeners, compiled by Carolyn Summers.  They break down the lists into very specific descriptions that are sure to help you find exactly what you need for your specific yard conditions.

  • Native plants for sun – this includes lists of sun loving native plants that are categorized based on height, need for moisture, and other planting area considerations.
  • Native plants for shade – this includes lists of shade loving plants categorized by groundcovers, ephemerals, and various height/size of plants.
Choose a Red Maple over a non-native Norway Maple!

Choose a Red Maple over a non-native Norway Maple!

Native Plants beneficial to birds. Finally, if you love birds, check out this list to attract birds to your yard.  Birds provide a great deal of color and character that is sure to be lacking in non-native landscapes.

This Invasive Species brochure from the New England Wild Flower Society helps you know what not to grow.

We would love to see how you are landscaping with native species. Post photos to our Facebook Page!

Organic Lawn Care

Pesticides are most harmful to children and pets and ultimately end up in our water supply.

Pesticides are most harmful to children and pets and ultimately end up in our water supply.

A healthy lawn will endure drought, diseases, and pest infestations better than a stressed lawn, and healthy grasses will compete better with undesirable weeds, so the best way to avoid using chemicals is to build up a healthy lawn, naturally.

Follow these tips for a toxic-free lawn:

Nourish the Soil

Don’t use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers because they kill the natural bacteria and fungi that nourish your soil and protect you plants.

Aerate in the fall. Core and slice aeration of the soil before seeding will improve germination and alleviate compaction.

If you have problem areas, test the soil and replace only what is missing with certified organic supplements. Cornell Cooperative Extension does soil testing.

Leave grass clippings on the lawn when you mow.

Leave grass clippings on the lawn when you mow.

Nourish the Grass

Leave grass clippings on the lawn and look at “Leave Leaves Alone” to learn how to mulch your leaves in.  They break down to provide all the nitrogen a healthy lawn needs.

Seed in the Fall to Outcompete Weeds

Seed in early fall with a mixture of native grasses.  A mixture of compost and grass seed is the best solution for filling in bare spots.

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Mow High

Let grass grow to 4 inches and cut it down to 3 inches, allowing it to shade its roots, conserve moisture and keep out weeds. Keep mower blades sharp so they do not tear the grass, making it vulnerable to disease.

Control Weeds

Dig out weeds you really can’t stand. The best method to combat weeds is to use a little grass seed to outcompete weeds, but some people like to use an organic corn gluten product that prevents weed seeds from germinating on established lawns (but it also prevents grass seeds from germinating as well).  It may take several years to control problem areas. For spot weed control on driveways and walkways, use a horticultural vinegar or vinegar/citrus oil combination product. You can buy this at Mill River Supply in Bedford Hills.

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Control Pests Without Chemicals

Common pests (grubs, sod webworms, chinch bugs) can be controlled with applications of beneficial nematodes. Milky spore powder is another effective control for Japanese beetle grubs.

 

For links to more natural lawn care resources and an organic lawn care calendar, visit Grassroots Environmental Education.

 

Commit to a toxic free yard and take the Great Healthy Yard Pledge!