By Laurie Zitterkopf, Nebraska Extension Master Gardener
Conserve Water, Plant Native Plants
The water we put on our lawns is equal to thirty-two gallons of water every day for every man, woman and child in the country. Because this is more water than is replaced by rainfall in most areas of the country, watering our lawns is clearly an unsustainable practice. Why do we have lawns, our neighbor has one? If we plant native plants, once established they need little to no additional water.
Starting a New Perennial Bed
Starting a new perennial bed? Create your new planting beds in the fall and plant them in the spring. To start a new bed on existing turf, smother it first with up to 4-6” of a topsoil/compost mix to kill the grass. No need to dig down into the sod. A 10’ x 10’ spot can take a couple small shrubs; a few perennials and add in a few annual seeders for faster color.
Perennials are more appealing both visually and for attracting pollinators when there’s multiples of the same type of plant. We must plant the host plants, native plants, of the caterpillars, so that we can enjoy the butterflies and feed the birds. Remember to allow for insect damage. Rule of thumb, take ten large steps back from your planting, now what do you see? We must embrace natures artwork, the leaf-cutter bees.
Creating an Ecosystem
Instead of lawn or mulch under our trees, we need to create an ecosystem, plant in layers (shrubs and perennials). A large number of our butterflies and moths spend the caterpillar stage in the trees and need a soft landing with soil that they can get down into so they can become that butterfly or moth we love to watch. Less lawn, less hassle, Go to nwf.org/nativeplantfinder to help you choose.
Starting Your Own Ecosystem
Our planted landscapes need be able to sustain plants and animals through all life stages. Our lawns/turfgrass, flower beds and privacy rows (tree rows) should be planted with the host plants (native plants) of the caterpillars, so that we can provide an ecological functioning ecosystem. Start this fall by smothering part of your lawn to plant in the spring. Fall is a great time to plant a tree, choose a good host tree, to start your own ecosystem.