Gardening to Benefit the Environment? Here's How you Can Do it
We know there are many reasons to start a garden. Gardening can benefit us in several different ways, and having plants and flowers is obviously nicer to look at than just having a plain, boring lawn. However, some modern gardening methods don’t always lead to a better environment.
Gardening techniques sometimes recommend using heavy fertilizers and biocides such as fungicides and herbicides. As well, they often require irrigation and a lot of maintenance, which sometimes makes it hard to keep the garden up to snuff.
However, there are numerous ways to garden without the use of heavy fertilizers and without the use of harmful chemicals. One method is to utilize native plants.
#### **What are Native Plants?**
Native plants are plants that are naturalized to a given area. Because of this, they tend to be able to withstand the weather extremes of that area (i.e. dry and hot, cold and wet, etc. ) Thus, after they are established in an area, they don’t need much maintenance. After they are established, they need little, if any, watering. As well, fertilizer or biocides aren’t required. And as an added bonus, they don’t require raking leaves. As the leaves decompose, they provide nutrients for the soil and are a natural weed suppressor.
Since native plants have developed in harmony with a particular area, they also get along with other native plants. Native plants grow well with other plants and sometimes benefit one another, allowing bio-diversity. These plants also benefit local wildlife. They attract songbirds and provide nutrients for insects such as butterflies and bees.
#### **How to Use Native Plants**
There are numerous ways to use native plants. You can replace a lawn with native plants. Therefore, this area will not need mowing, fertilizer, and won’t need to be irrigated after the plants are established. Las Vegas and other southwestern U.S. cities have already started recommending lawn replacement to conserve water. But even if you don’t want to replace your entire lawn (at least not right away) with native pants, an option to conserve water that will do a lot of good is to put in a rain garden.
#### **Rain Garden**
Rain gardens allow rain water runoff (i.e. from your roof or from a driveway) to be collected and eventually be soaked into the ground. Plants in rain gardens are native plants that are adapted to wet areas, but can also handle dry spouts. They have deep roots and therefore can pull water from deeper in the ground, not just the surface. And because they utilize native plants, they don’t require fertilizer or much maintenance.
Rain gardens are extremely beneficial, because they prevent water from going into storm drains and surface water. During heavy rain storms, erosion, flooding, and water pollution can all occur due to heavy precipitation. In urban areas particularly, storm drains get backed up causing flooding. To relieve the flooding, the water treatment plants are forced to release pretreated material into the waterways. This material can contain anything from industrial waste and can be heavy in nitrogen content, causing pollution in waterways and possible algal growth. Having a rain garden can offset some of this water and help prevent it from overloading the storm drains.
Gardening using native plants is such a great way to beautify your house while also helping the environment. Native plants allow you to use less resources and provides habitat that wildlife like. In addition, since you are avoiding the use of biocides and fertilizers, you are preventing pollution into local waterways. All in all, it is a great way to help wildlife around you. To find a list of plants native to your area, check out [this guide](http://www.wildflower.org/plants/).