In preparation for this celebratory “Earth Month” which includes Earth Day on the 22nd, and Arbor Day on the 29th, our March TRIbe book discussion group featured Doug Tallamy’s latest book, Nature’s Best Hope, which offers the premise of a “Homegrown National Park,” which is created through the collective effort of landowners everywhere to establish individual yards as networked nature conservation areas. Tallamy proposes the following actions - which align with many permaculture design principles, every landowner can do to make this ecological restoration possible:
- Use NATIVE PLANTS, and remove invasive species. Non-native plants, including hybridized and cloned cultivars of natives, do not adequately support our local ecosystem food web necessary to support the biodiversity that will ensure full ecosystem functioning. Of primary consideration are food and habitat for CATERPILLARS, which are the foundation of the food web for other species. Some native trees and shrubs we highly recommend for HUMANS as well as for wildlife include: Black cherry, native plums, persimmon, paw paw, and serviceberry.
Resources for determining good native plant selections include:
- Wild Ones: https://wildones.org/
- Pollinator Partnership: https://www.pollinator.org/guides
- National Wildlife Federation Native Plant Finder: https://www.nwf.org/nativeplantfinder/
- Dr. John Hilty’s Illinois Wild Flowers website for Illinois gardeners: www.illinoiswildflowers.info
- The Conservation Foundation’s “Conservation@Home”: https://www.theconservationfoundation.org/conservation-home/
- Shrink your lawn 50% and increase the overall number of plants in your yard. Follow the permaculture principles, “Design from patterns to details” and “use small, slow solutions,” by adding a few new native plants each year -- make sure you put the right plants in the right place and you don’t have to do it all at once. This also applies the permaculture principle, “Work with nature rather than against,” when you replace lawn with native resources.
- Plant “keystone” species that also support “specialist” pollinators: Oaks, Black Cherry, Willow, Goldenrods, Asters and Sunflowers, along with your monarch supporting milkweeds. Permaculture principle: “Work with Nature rather than against it.”
- Network with neighbors. Different yards can provide habitat for different species. Not every yard can do it all. Permaculture principles: “Use and value diversity” and “Integrate, don’t segregate”
- Incorporate supportive hardscapes. Eliminate continuous nighttime lighting (Permaculture principle: “Produce no waste”), include water for wildlife (Permaculture principle: “Use edges and value the marginal”), mow lawn to 3-4” (Permaculture principle: “Catch and store energy”), install several nesting areas (Permaculture principle: “Use and value diversity”), cover window wells.
- Create ground level habitat. LEAVE YOUR LEAVES which supports pollinator larvae, and make sure soil around plants is not compacted (lawn). Permaculture principles: “Catch and store energy” and “Use and value renewable resources."
- Do not use chemicals for fertilization or destruction. Permaculture principle: “Apply self regulation and accept feedback.”
- Share your knowledge and talk to your neighbors. Permaculture principles: “Observe and interact” and “Integrate, don’t segregate.”
Tallamy provides detailed rationales for each of the above recommendations in the book and we highly recommend reading the book in its entirety for full understanding of the importance for each. In celebration of Earth Month, we encourage you to pick one recommendation to implement this month, and even better, to additionally create a plan to incorporate as many as possible over the next year or two.
If you would like to learn how, and be guided through the process to create a plan to transition your own yard, we encourage you to enroll in our Permaculture Forest Gardener certificate course, which starts April 24 and meets once a month live online with our instructor Connie Kollmeyer, or you can take it independently online without the certificate. Additionally, if you would like to visit and “observe and interact” with gardens and landscapes employing natives and permaculture principles, be sure to enroll in our Permaculture Forest Gardener Field Immersions (almost full)!