1) They cost less to maintain.
Native plants cost far less over a ten-year period than conventional turf grass. In fact, the EPA estimates the combined cost of installation and maintenance for a native landscape to be only one-fifth the cost of maintenance alone for a conventional lawn.
A 2019 article in Strong Towns reached similar conclusions about a 3.6 acre plot. It cited annual costs for the plot’s conventional landscape to be $67,800 but only $14,250 annually for native plantings.
Native plants also cost far less than asphalting for medians. For a one-mile strip that is 20 feet wide, asphalting could top $200,000. Native plants, on the other hand, come in at around only $10,000 for materials.
2) They take a few years to bloom.
Native plants are perennials that take some time to get established. If you are starting from seed, you will need a bit of patience. For instance, in a 4-season climate, the first year you will scatter the seed in autumn. The following year you will need to mow the site a couple of times to keep weeds from reseeding. The year after that you will see the first flush of blooms. Of course, if you wish to speed things up, there are numerous sources for buying native plants in plug, potted, or bare root form. Either way, it is always good to help your community understand the timeline.
3) They must be free of neonicotinoids and other pesticides.
Many nurseries and suppliers use neonicotinoids, which are neurotoxic insecticides that are commonly drenched on plant roots or used to coat seeds. They are absorbed into every part of the plant as it grows. They can make a plant toxic to insects for years after the initial treatment. Obviously, this is not good for pollinators (or anything else), so they cannot be used on any plants in your pollinator garden.
In fact, you will need to avoid any pesticides from coming near your pollinator garden. The more you think of your garden as a supper club and nursery for your local pollinators, the easier it is to let go of outdated thoughts about “pest control.”
4) They cannot be dug from the wild.
Another issue when sourcing native plants is ensuring they are not dug from the wild. It does not help our pollinators if we destroy native habitat that already exists. Make sure your suppliers are using organic methods to grow their own stock in greenhouses and garden beds.
5) You need to “leave the leaves” and “don’t cut back in autumn.”
End-of-season maintenance looks a little different in a native plant garden. Instead of bagging up and removing leaves, they should be left in place to provide a snug shelter for overwintering pollinators. Similarly, you will not want to cut down plant stalks because many pollinators survive the winter inside their hollow stems. Some simple signage can help educate your community about this different approach to garden care.
Photo by Camerauthor Photos on Unsplash.