Importance of Naturalizing a Property by Earth to Salad
Updated: Sep 14
Living year round in cottage country has its definite perks, as well as its downsides. One of the perks of course is experiencing the seasons changing and the beautiful colours, sounds, and smells that come with it. One of the downsides is the desolate, long, and cold winters. What gets one through the quiet dark winter is the anticipation of the coming brilliant colours, fresh smells, and all of the adorable baby animals.
Seeing the blanket of snow opens the imagination to think about what projects could be completed when planting season comes in May. One of these projects for us was continuing our naturalization project around the property. Upon researching for plant sales and looking for ideas of native species that would thrive, we found the native plant sale with F.E.E.L (Friends of Ecological and Environmental Learning).
Another motivator for planting native species was the attraction of more pollinator species such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees to help boost our vegetable gardens naturally. Pollinators are being taken out every day by multiple human induced environmental stressors, so planting flora that provides for the pollinators is another way to look out for mother nature and our own sustainability.
We were hoping that native species would be most likely to survive the harsh soil conditions throughout our property and limited full sun locations. Our soil composition varies from highly organic and very wet to rocky, condensed, and dry. After thorough research into what each plant requires for ideal growing conditions, we staked the locations throughout our 1 acre property in anticipation of the plant pick-up..
With all of the excitement of envisioning the property with life and beauty again come spring, the list of species on our wishlist was ever growing. We ordered a mixture of trees, shrubs, and perennials. This is a list of what we planted and how they are doing;
2 Black walnut (Juglans nigra), both doing well
4 White birch (Betula papyrifera), all 4 doing very well
2 yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis), both doing okay
2 Tamaracks (Larix laricina), only 1 survived but is thriving
2 Eastern Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis), neither survived
2 Pin cherries (Prunus pensylvanica), both doing okay
2 red osier dogwood (cornus sericea), both doing very well
3 red raspberry (Rubus idaeus), 2 survived and both doing very well
2 Wild clematis (Clematis virginiana), both doing well
2 Fly honeysuckles (Lonicera canadensis), both doing okay
2 Globe thistles (Echinops), one doing better than the other
3 Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), 2 survived and both doing very well
2 Swamp asters (Symphyotrichum puniceum), 1 survived and is doing well
3 Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), all doing okay
4 Rough woodland sunflowers (Helianthus divaricatus), all doing very well
3 Swamp roses (Rosa palustris), 2 doing very well
Benefits of planting native species
There are many benefits to planting native species and these include but are not limited to; their precipitation levels, the soil types and characteristics, harsh climatic seasonal extremes, common predators and other species interactions, and their ability to prevent invasive species.
Native species have already adapted to the expected precipitation levels for a given area. The amount of rain and moisture in the rain varies between location and time of year. Here, in the Haliburton Highlands, our average yearly precipitation is approximately 950mm. Any species that prefer growing with wet feet or in dry soil must be planted accordingly with the average precipitation for a given area in mind.
Native species are pre-adapted to soil composition and soil is arguably one of the most important aspects of plant health and growth. These characteristics vary even throughout an individual property and growing preferences must be taken into consideration. Different native plants will be adapted to the handful of combinations that may be present on a given property. I do not have enough time or space to discuss the importance of soil and its influences on plants. If interest arises, I will make another post just on soil!
Native species have adapted to the necessary tolerances of natural climate fluctuations including extremes for some areas such as far north or equatorial regions. For example, in Canada, many species have adapted to the extreme cold. Another extreme is soil pH which varies throughout the world, some areas being very alkaline or acidic depending on the parent material, organic matter, pollution, and ground cover from other species. This is similar to how cacti have adapted to the extreme heat and the drought that accompanies it by capturing moisture within rather than relying on precipitation.
Plants have natural enemies and friends and it has been proven that plants can communicate with some other plants, insects, and even humans. For example Willow salix sp. communicate with other willow trees, if one tree is dying, the mycelium (fungus) network underground aids in sharing nutrients from the healthy trees nearby to help heal the sick tree. The synergistic and antagonistic interactions between species is stronger and more effective when the plants are native to the area. Pollinators are familiar with the native species and will be attracted to your property which is very beneficial for gardens of all kinds.
Planting native species inhibits the ability of invasive species to take over. This is because if the native plant is established before the invasive plant competes for sunlight, soil nutrients, or root space then the invasive species will not be able to colonate. Invasive species problems are more likely to occur in areas that are open and available. Invasive species are strong competitors with the native species, but they are not necessarily bad! Plants have natural fluctuations and when there are excesses of one thing nature balances it out over time if left to its own devices.
The annual native plant sale allowed us to naturalize our property further while helping a good cause in our neighbourhood. F.E.E.L offers rain barrel sales, community education, events, resources, and newsletters, proceeds go to the annual water festival. This charity was a pleasure to work with and I look forward to next spring to get a rain barrel for our vegetable gardens, as well as more plants. You can never go wrong supporting local community efforts or planting native species. You will feel good and the Earth will feel even better!
For more information on F.E.E.L, benefits of native species, invasive species education, and/or how soil and plants interact please subscribe and email me with questions.
Special Guest Blog post written by Sable Robertson. Follow and read more from her here, at Earth to Salad!