Planting native species is a surefire route to a stable, low-maintenance, carefree garden. Here are our best ideas for going native in the garden.
As you plan your landscape or garden, follow nature's lead!
- Before you begin to play with garden design, take a long look at the hand that nature has dealt you. Let nature hardscape your garden. Are the landforms soft or jagged? Bright or subtle? Is the topography flat or varied? Take notes, then take the hint.
- On a related note, your goal in building walls or walkways is to re-create natural elements on a smaller scale, using natural stone in natural patterns (unless there is no stone, for then it will look out of place).
- Take note of native plant groupings. Local plant masses provide an important example of what will succeed and look wonderful. Grow what already grows, or a variant of it.
- Match the soil and the plantings. If your soil is acidic and your chosen plants need alkaline soil, you're in for a struggle. See our pH preferences chart.
- Buy propagated wild plants from a reputable nursery. Seeing the collection of plants from the wild as a sort of shoplifting, “ecologically correct” nurseries have spring up in every region of the country.
- Blur the garden's edges. Unlike conventional gardeners, who may end plantings with an edge or a nice, tidy line, consider blurring the edges by gradually reducing the plant's density toward the perimeter of the garden. Perhaps float a few islands of plants toward or into the wilder landscape, if possible, to lead the eye outward.
- Don't fertilize when you plant. Most native communities thrive in areas of low soil fertility. Giving native plants a big meal of nitrogen when you set them out usually is of tremendous benefit to surrounding weeds. Take it slow and easy at first.
- Weed and mulch frequently, and wait until the plants are established before you decide to give them supplements. Root growth should come first, so don't be disturbed if plants seem to be making a slow start.
When man demands of nature a change so great and so unnatural, she rebels and refuses to submit.
–The Old Farmer's Almanac, 1895