Why do we garden? The answer for us gardeners is simple. It connects us with nature, relieves some of our stress, gives us a sense of accomplishment and keeps us physically active.
Unfortunately, we get so side tracked by the exotic beauties sold in the big box stores, which are also highly treated with pesticides. We tend to forget about our little critters that are just as beneficial to us as the plants are to them.
Here are some facts:
The math is simple, the more land we take, the more wildlife we lose. It is a sad fact but there is hope for anyone wanting to help. We can all add native plants to improve this dire situation and better yet, save money while doing it.
Native plants are resistant to pests, need less water and less fertilizer since they have co-evolved with each other.
Ninety percent of insects depend on native plants. The thing is, our ecosystem will collapse without them. Every animal on this planet depends on energy harvested from plants. Insects serve as the "bridge" to supply this energy directly (herbivores) and indirectly (omnivores).
When we think of bird food, we think of seeds and berries. However, offspring needs insects to thrive. An oak tree for example, provides a habitat for over 500 different kinds of caterpillars. One clutch of chickadees requires over 6000 caterpillars. We will not have birds if they don't have anything to raise their babies with.
Planting exotics is as if we are planting concrete statues in our yards. Natives do not recognize non-native plants as food. Besides birds, let us not forget about our pollinators that provide 75% of our fruits and vegetables: The Bees! Native bees are up to (and possibly much more) three times more efficient than honey bees in pollinating. There is no need to be scared of them either as they are docile since they don't have a hive to defend. They are solitary bees that are much smaller than the regular honey bee. The picture in this post shows the size of a native bee on the Indian blanket flower blossom, which is the size of a quarter.
Here are a few tips on how to become a backyard hero:
More information can be found at Florida Native Plant Society www.fnps.org
I also highly recommend the book "Bringing Nature Home" which was a source and inspiration for this blog.
Happy Planting Backyard Hero