Gabrielle Stevenson needs advice on welcoming pollinators and other wildlife to her backyard in Roseville, California. But he didn’t like the fuss and didn’t know where to start.
He also didn’t have thousands of dollars to hire a landscaping company. What plants to buy? How does he organize them?
“Honestly, I find it very scary,” he wrote in an email to us last month.
It is possible. But it makes sense, according to scientists. Native flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees in cities and towns provide food and habitat for wildlife that are facing dangerous declines, including insects and birds. They also conserve water, because native species, when placed in the right place, do not need water once established.
It seems like a good theme on Earth Day Eve. So, for guidance on how people can get started without a lot of time or money, I called Rebecca McMackin, director of horticulture at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a city park. attracting rare insects such as the double ladybird and the goldenrod. lost Here is what he said.
It’s true that gardens take effort, McMackin said. There is research, money, care. So, he advises newbies to start small.
“Pick a corner of your lawn to cover first, rather than the whole thing,” says McMackin.
Consider sun or shade, wet or dry, because you will choose your plants accordingly. If it’s a small area, you can pull the grass yourself, with your hands or with the help of a shovel or shovel. Instead of throwing away the grass, McMackin suggests, just shake the soil and put it to the side, root it up, go back to the earth.
Choose worm food
Bugs can’t eat plants. They have evolved over thousands of years to eat certain species. The most famous example in North America is the king caterpillar, which can only eat milk. Oak trees, the main predators of host plants, host about 900 species of US caterpillars. But many of the most widely used plants in American gardens are food for local caterpillars.
Caterpillars are important for one reason: They are food for baby birds.
Wherever you are, “the best thing to do is plant insect-friendly plants,” says McMackin. “It’s amazing what people can do that really shows the positive impact we can have so quickly.”
To find native plants in the United States, you can plug your ZIP code into the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder. Their data comes from Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware whose work has helped stimulate the growth of native plants.
To clean, the flowers will be shortened
Many native flowers grow alongside tall grasses that act as natural scaffolding. When planted alone in a garden, these lanky varieties can be dependable.
“Plants taller than two feet look wild and unsightly if they’re not properly placed and arranged,” says McMackin. “Maintaining low-maintenance plants maintains a maintained aesthetic.”
In much of the eastern half of the United States, one option is the eastern red columbine, host to the duskywing columbine, among other insects. It blooms when ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate from Mexico, and the birds are drawn to the red flowers.
“The ruby-throated hummingbird is the pollinator for that flower,” McMackin said. “Without that bird, those flowers wouldn’t grow so much. And those birds have come to rely on that flower when they come here.
Don’t forget the herbs
“We often think of beautiful gardens filled with only flowers,” says McMackin. “But small trees are beautiful, great for wildlife, and less labor than most gardens.”
So trees, called the leaves of heaven, provide flowers to pollinators and leaves to caterpillars.
“Most of the insect and moth species of North America – thousands of species – are known to feed on only two dozen species of plants,” said David Wagner, an entomologist at the University of Connecticut specializing in caterpillars.
Trees cool communities, sequester carbon from the atmosphere, filter air and absorb storm water.
Where to find plants and more information
Search online for native plant nurseries in your area. The people who work there are a good resource for questions. Large breeders are starting to carry organic varieties, but be sure to ask if they have been treated with pesticides.
Many states have real estate agencies that hold pop-up sales in your area. Others can refer you to planting lists and sample plans, such as this guide for northern New Jersey.
The California team for our Climate Forward interview, Gabrielle Stevenson, has a good starting point: an online garden designer who has a “Friendly” option for a natural garden with a focus on beauty.
Grab a book
You can find many books about natural gardening. It also shows the relationship between plants and insects, like this:
Pollinators of native plants: attract, monitor and identify pollinators and beneficial insects with native plants.by Heather Holm
A Northern Gardener’s Guide to Native Plants and Pollinatorsby Lorraine Johnson, Sheila Colla and Anne Sanderson (Northeast, Upper Midwest and Great Lakes)
Farming for Moths: A Regional Guideby Jim McCormac and Chelsea Gottfried (Midwest)
Native Plants for Texas Butterflies: A Field Guide, by Jim Weber, Lynne M. Weber and Roland H. Wauer (Texas)
More for Earth Day: 7 of our favorite reads
The editors at the Times’s Climate Desk have selected articles that we hope will inspire, surprise and entertain you.
Important news from The Times
Algae flowers: Scientists found 13 million tons of Sargassum moving down Florida’s waterways in March. A story.
Fighting debt: The battle in Washington is less about the debt and more about undermining President Biden’s climate plan, according to this news analysis.
A vacation for California: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects spring temperatures to drop, allaying fears of ice melt and flooding.
Support for Amazon: President Biden pledged $500 million to help Brazil fight deforestation. Congress must approve it.
Environmental management: President Biden plans to announce the creation of a White House office to address the disproportionate impact of environmental disasters on people of color.
Roll the dice, save the city: The board game challenges players to decarbonize New York City, and energy experts are listening.
From the Comments section
Plastic in our bodies: Perhaps having a final relationship with our own waste is our destiny now, writes Mark O’Connell.
From outside The Times
National Public Radio investigated the effects of melting snow on a series. It starts by looking at how to burn a fire.
From Reuters: The German government has approved a bill to ban most new oil and gas heating systems starting in 2024.
The Atlantic explains why animals migrate to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is a new ecosystem.
According to the rest of the world, Brazilian producers on TikTok and YouTube have reached millions of viewers with videos showing how to make gold legally.
Carbon Brief has reported on a new study that shows that plants have increased 58 times over two years ago. It is difficult to protect the organisms.
Warmer oceans, higher seas and less ice: CNN has reviewed a new report by the World Meteorological Organization that says the world has failed its 2022 health outlook.
Before you go: Turn food into fuel
After decades of discussion, New York City has launched a citywide composting program. Currently, nothing is composted from the food waste collected on the side of the road. But a biogas produced by waste still flows through pipes to serve homes.