Celebrate Earth Day by Going Native: Make Change That Lasts

Another Earth Day is here.  There will be speeches, picnics, and lots of hard work and dedication on behalf of our communities and our planet.  And then there will be the day after Earth Day, and we will go back to our normal routines (and our leftovers from the picnic) and wait for next Earth Day.

How about trying something different?  How about celebrating Earth Day by building a change that lasts?  Have you ever considered what the huge impact native plants can have on your environment, your wallet, and your general sanity?

Why Native?

Landscaping (and gardening) with native plants means you’re working with nature to keep everything alive, not against it.  Native plants are built to succeed in your area, meaning better results from your lawn, landscape or garden. They also help restore local ecology, sustaining birds, bees and other wildlife. And depending on where you live, your water bill might dry up a little as well. 

Know Your Zone

The USDA manages a map of North America zoned for plant hardiness, which is the “standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location”.   The zones, ranging from 1 to 13 (North to South respectively), divide the continent up by average minimum winter temperature.

(Visit http://www.garden.org/zipzone/ for a better view)

Once you learn your zone, you can then begin to look at plants specifically suited for your own region.  There are no hard and fast rules (there are people growing bananas in Michigan), but if the idea is to go native and take advantage of a plant’s natural strengths, you want to stick close to your zone.

Start With a Small Step

If you’re not ready to give up your colorful annuals or green lawn just yet, don’t worry.  Consider converting just part of your property – you can start with a single bed.  Every native plant means less water, less time and a healthier overall ecosystem for you and the planet.

If you garden or care for fruit trees, consider adding local varietals to your selection when planting.  It’s a good way to learn more about your own unique ecological niche of the world and save a little water and fertilizer as well.  Better Homes and Gardens has a cool tool that looks for vegetable varieties by USDA zone (remember those?).

If you already have plans for Earth Day, maybe your native landscaping project can wait a weekend or two.  But like any green thumb will tell you, “the wise gardener anticipates June in January (and August’s water bill in March)”.

Dig it?  Happy Earth Day!