Songbirds, bees, butterflies, frogs – all make our garden vibrant. Their populations are declining in Northern Virginia, but we can reverse that trend if we use our own properties to create habitat. Creating habitat is easy if you know a few principals.
Native Plants. Native plants are the basis of the food webs. Introduced plants from other parts of the world are inedible to most of our insects. Learn all about beatiful Northern Virginia native plants at www.plantnovanatives.org.
Less lawn. Use lawn for walking and to provide an accent, but be aware that turf grass (which comes from Europe) is a useless plant when it comes to wildlife habitat. The “perfect lawn” in our climate requires huge inputs of water and chemicals. For a quick way to turn that area into productive habitat, simply plant a tree.
Beat the deer. Deer have devastated the native plants in our woods and seriously damaged the food web. We have the opportunity to protect those plants and the bees and butterflies that depend on them on our own properties. Where protection is impractical, here is a list of native plants according to their potential to be browsed.
Avoid chemicals. It is worse than pointless to attract butterflies and bees with native plants only to kill them off with insecticides. And fertilizers damage the soil in our gardens and ruin the streams where they end up.
Remove invasive introduced plants. Some alien plants are neutral – they provide no habitat but are otherwise harmless. But others escape from our gardens into the wild, where they have displaced a huge percentage of our native plants. Here is a list of plants to avoid.