The bees you see buzzing from phlox to phlox, the ladybugs you want feeding on aphids, and the praying mantis staring back at you in late summer all have more in common than just being bugs. They share something with toads stalking your garden’s ground level insects, birds picking beetles from your beans, and fox keeping small rodents in check. All need wild spaces, open spaces, woods, meadows, wetlands … swaths of land and water left mostly unaltered by human development. Therefore, as a gardener you serve your plantings, and beyond these, your neighborhood, your town, your region, your state, your country, and your planet by seeking out and working with your local land trust or land conservation organization to preserve and develop an appreciation for natural landscapes.
Why include a call to preserve natural landscapes as a You Can Grow That! post? The theme for this month is how each gardener has the power to beautify their neighborhood and town. Working to create community, school, and public space gardens are obvious, valuable and important ways to do so, but so is the preservation of undeveloped open spaces where native flora and fauna can continue to interact as they have for centuries.
Preserved open spaces allow us to witness how forests, meadows, wetlands and waterways, grasslands and other undeveloped areas act without the often heavy hand of humans; to see wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, mosses and trees for more than their ornamental value, but as homes and restaurants for wildlife. Preserved open spaces help us understand ecosystem balance.
To borrow from Doug Tallamy in Bringing Nature Home,
“Nearly every creature on this planet owes its existence to plants, the only organisms capable of capturing the sun’s energy and, through photosynthesis, turning that energy into food for the rest of us.”
And what, Tallamy explains, do plants depend upon for pollination? Insects. And what do insects need to survive? The plants they use for food and have evolved with in local, natural, balanced landscapes.
Preserving such local landscapes helps insure local plants and insects have what they need, which helps insure local birds and larger wildlife will continue to exist and thrive, which helps maintain ecosystem balance.
Just think, a single oak tree can support more than 500 species of butterflies and moths. Bluestem grasses growing in an unmowed meadow host skipper butterflies. Violets thriving in a chemical-free lawn host fritillary butterflies. (Source: Bringing Nature Home)
I think that understanding this makes one a better gardener … one who gets the value of using and planting native flowers, shrubs and trees to help balance the impact human presence has on the land; one who realizes that surrounding their vegetable garden with native flowering plants will attract beneficial pollinators that, in turn, will insure better yields and help keep non-beneficial insects in check; one that sees leaf litter as a goldmine of nutrients that will help replenish their cultivated soils; one who values insects as wildlife food, and wildlife as a means of keeping other wildlife, including insects, in check.
When you think of the You Can Grow That! slogan consider more than just the cultivated gardens we so cherish. Reach beyond your garden fence to offer time and/or support to land and waterway conservation that insures the features that make your region unique are preserved for now and into the future.
On the 4th of each month, C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening urges garden bloggers to champion the virtues of gardening.
All of this month’s, as well as previous posts from gardeners in multiple zones, can be found at the You Can Grow That! website.