Last year I did something different with my garden. I still planted my same favourite vegetables, adding a few different ones to the mix, of course, but I looked further than my plot of garden.
I looked to the land surrounding me. The grass and the weeds that make up my property, the beauty that grows in the ditch. Long conditioned to plant rich, soft grass and mow it to the perfect height, I’ve started to let things change.
I’ve begun letting the dandelions take over, instead of spraying them with pesticides. My husband finally won out – sort of – and sprayed half of our yard…the part we spend the most amount if time barefoot in. But, a glorious 1/2 acre? It’s all bright yellow flowers, ready for bees and butterflies and other pollinating insects to enjoy. It’s also there for me to enjoy. As a jelly (a vegan honey!), as an addition to cookies, as my face balm.
Leaving our yard half full of dandelions doesn’t change much. It still requires us to mow every so often and there is still a huge plot of land that’s filled with weeds. While we’re doing our part to help bring pollinators into our yard (something that is also selfish of me…the more pollinators the more squash and melon I’ll get!), it still doesn’t feel like enough, doesn’t feel as natural as it could. I know, it sounds dumb considering it’s literally nature.
We haven’t had all the time in the world, so some parts of our yard has been left to grow wild, ignored by the lawn mower. It’s a funny thing, letting nature take over. She knows just what to do. Lining our trees, tall prairie grasses stand, blowing gently in the breeze and making for a beautiful arrangement come fall, their seeds burnt and gorgeous.
We liked the look of the prairie grasses and wanted something low-maintenance, so we researched what we could do. Turns out, letting native plants into your yard can make for less yardwork. Who fucking knew. Except anyone who knows anything about native plants.
So, we ordered seeds of prairie grasses and yarrow. I bought plugs of coneflowers and prairie roses. We figured out what would work best and what would give back to the Earth. And, to my husband’s delight, what would mean taking the lawnmower out only once a year, at the end of the season, helping spread those seeds and bring our grassland meadow some more beauty. It’s nowhere near completed, and the coneflowers didn’t make it from the grasshoppers and dry weather, but we can keep adding, year after year, until Mother Nature does what she does best and takes over.
We’ve long been incorporating foreign plants into our yards, and with the addition of a citrus tree (on the prairies!), I thought that there was no way we could keep up with the maintenance. I want to see what my country has to offer, what my province has to offer for beautiful plants.
Turns out, a lot.
Gorgeous prairie rose dots the gravel roads I travel on, and now will bloom in my yard. Crocus peaks her head up when spring is still thawing, showing the world that beauty and life is still here. Yarrow makes for a medicinal tea and looks beautiful with bright white flowers, showing off their beauty in clumps. I can’t wait to see all of these in my yard years from now, standing proud and tall and just exactly as they should be. I may not have bought the crocus yet, and there are so many plants I would love to add, but they’ll be added with time. Slowly, my yard will be transformed in a natural oasis that resembles what it used to look like and not an over-cultivated spot of land. Best of all? I don’t have to stress and prune and fertilize and worry about whether or not I should be spraying for weeds.
The other night I was driving through the city and looked at the yards, perfectly manicured to show off their green grass. Street lights shone down on me, causing me to feel like I was on display, that it wasn’t the sleepy evening I thought, but a bustling day. Pretty flowers lined the median, spilling out of their concrete planters, looking nice, yet overly done. I didn’t fully relax until we got closer to the outskirts of the city, until long prairie grasses (the kind that animals can hide and play in) grew in the ditches. Until the cattails took over and the world looked more like it should. Natural and beautiful. Not manicured so severely that we obsess over grass heights.
Plants that are native to your region are beneficial to the insects and animals that are nearby, but also to you. While there are tons of medicinal and edible plants you can buy, I’m talking about the lazy factor. Native plants do better in droughts or heavy rains, depending on what your summer usually looks like. They can handle frost, they can handle snow, they can handle pretty much anything Mother Nature throws at them. Because they were made for this type of weather. They weren’t flown in from other lands, brought here to look like you’re on a tropical island, they were born here. Okay, some of weeds and plants growing in our yards and ditches weren’t, but they acclimated nicely…some of them a little too nicely.
It means you can stop fighting with the land, learning to live in harmony, instead. It means less watering, less coddling of plants. Not all will survive, but they have a better chance than that showy tropical you thought would look good. It means giving back to your garden, to our world. Yes, it’s great fun to plant new varieties of things, incorporating plants that have travelled a long way to get to your zone, but it’s also great to enjoy what your region has to offer.
I’m still going to love my lemon tree. I might even buy a lime tree to go with it. I’ll still fill my pots with annuals that don’t come from here, only surviving two months out of the year. But, I’m going to add some great native plants and grasses and bring my yard back to its glory days, of what it used to be. It just makes sense.