Sunday, July 17, 2016

Healing the Land

Restoring habitat is not limited to wilderness preservation. Significantly more biodiversity can also be had by improving landscapes around our built environments. Many private residences are prime opportunities for owners to boldly transform lawns and lots into small wonderlands teeming with beneficial and beautiful beings. Conservation landscaping is a discipline that encourages such transformations and offers tools and guidelines to empower practitioners.
Photo by Jayscratch

The suburban living experiment has left occupants with half-finished properties. Having met human needs for shelter and infrastructure, builders leave restoration of the remaining devastated environment largely to homeowners. Planting turf is but a temporary salve on a bare wound. The soil under turf will not be anywhere near as healthy as it once was or could be again if covered with deep-rooted plants.

Turf, as much trouble as it can be to maintain, can also be very comely. More often, unfortunately, lawns are a less attractive mixture of weeds and uneven patches of turfgrass. Conservation landscaping doesn't call for eradication of lawns, but discourages their dominance on a property. Over time, homeowners are encouraged to transform the less fecund areas of their property with plantings that can supply many functions such as insectary, water infiltration, and curb appeal.

For those living in the Chesapeake Bay region, some tools that are available to make garden design and plant selection fast and fun are the Conservation Landscape Design Tool of the Anne Arundel Watershed Stewards Academy, or for a more step-by-step design approach, try the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay's version (also available through the Chesapeake Native Plant Center). I did a design, and wanting a more comprehensive set of native plants to select from, alternated between the tool's suggestions and those plants that met my more precise specifications at the Ladybird Johnson Native Plant Database. If nothing else, the exercise has helped me recognize a few more native plants.

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