Growing up in a rural mountain valley, I had the privilege of being able to access untouched wilderness areas within minutes. As I hiked across the meadows, woodlands and mountain forests, I found it amazing how such a large variety of plant and animal life could all come together to make such beautiful landscapes—all without any help from humans. As a landscaper, I find it frustrating how hard it is to recreate these natural landscapes around our own homes and gardens. Nature has no problem creating these stunning arrangements, so why do we? I believe one of the biggest limits we place on ourselves when designing and installing home landscapes is in the principle of biodiversity.
The Benefits of Variety
Biodiversity is simply the degree of variation of life. The more variety of plant types around your home, the greater the biodiversity. The greater the biodiversity, the more your landscape can manage and take care of itself just like natural landscapes. For example, take an average home on a .5 acre lot. Within that .5 acre, you may find one type of lawn grass, a few different tree species, and a handful of shrubs and other ornamental plants. These yards with only 5 or 6 different plant types have high maintenance requirements and often make great targets for pests and diseases. Regular fertilizer, irrigation and pesticides are needed to keep the yard looking decent. On the other hand, take a .5 acre plot of land in nature. If you were to count every different plant type and species you’d find several dozens. These natural areas are very bio-diverse which makes it difficult for pests and diseases to take control of.
Diversifying Your Landscape
If you can count the number of different plant types in your yard on one hand, you should definitely look into increasing the biodiversity of your property. There are several ways homeowners can do this. The best way is to simply plant a wider variety of plant materials. While lawn areas are a valuable part of your landscape, they were never meant to be the only thing growing in your yard. Diversify your lawn by planting different grass species in different areas. If your backyard is shadier than your front yard, plant a more shade tolerant grass species there. If your climate supports it, you could replace a high maintenance lawn with native buffalograss. Consider transforming some areas of your lawn into natural, meadow-like habitats rich with native grasses and wildflowers. These mini prairies harbor a rich collection of biodiversity and attract beneficial insects and other pollinators. Here at Nature’s Seed, we have a large collection of native grass and wildflower seeds. Let us know what you’re looking for and we’d be glad to help.
Don't Forget About the Wildlife
Remember the more variety of plant materials the better. Plant both annual and perennial wildflowers, with a focus on natives. Try to plant both deciduous and coniferous trees and shrubs. Don’t forget about biodiversity when it comes to wildlife either. Birds, beneficial insects, butterflies and hummingbirds should be welcomed and encouraged to visit your landscape. Using native plant species as much as possible will increase wildlife biodiversity much more than non-native plants. Strive to plant 2-3 native plants for every non-native plant you use in your yard, and never plant anything that could become invasive. Select shrubs and trees that produce seeds and fruit. You can also create or set aside areas for wildlife habitat. Ponds are a great idea, as well as rock gardens, logs and wood piles.