When it comes to caring for my yard and gardens, I am a minimalist. We don’t apply pesticides or fertilizers and in my gardens you will only find perennials. We don’t trim down dead plants in the fall, or remove dried leaves from the gardens, only the ones that have fallen on the lawn, since they provide a home for insects and bees. When our milkweed dries out in the fall, we don’t cut it down. I love to see when the seed pods start breaking and the beautiful translucent seeds are carried away on windy days. Milkweed is a necessary plant for butterflies and we all should have some in our yards. The rabbits in our neighborhood love our clover and dandelion flowers that we let grow in our lawns, lawns that we have kept to a minimum. The squirrels love the seeds and acorns that have fallen from the trees, so we make sure to leave an area where the acorns are not collected as yard waste but left for wildlife. We never spray and celebrate the holes in our leaves, a sign our garden is sustaining the insects that feed birds and other animals.
Last year, we hired Andrew Whittaker from Green Abundance by Design, a local Permaculture designer with extensive knowledge of native plants. He designed and created for us a beautiful drought tolerant native garden featuring a gorgeous tree, tall grasses and bushes that provide food for wildlife and eye candy for us. Birds, insects, rabbits and squirrels feast in our garden, and it is especially rewarding to see birds feeding their babies red berries from the bushes in the spring. We also have a bird feeder that we refill from the first snow day until the first signs of spring. In case of extreme temperatures, we hang seed cakes for the squirrels next to the bird feeder. We love them and would never dream of harming or relocating them, which is not only illegal but cruel since that means separating families and most of the time killing them as they will get confused in an unknown territory and become easy targets for predators.
I have started to dislike manicured gardens because I don’t understand who their owners are trying to impress. Certainly, they are not helping the environment. Our yard is simple to maintain, and we don’t need to hire landscapers with noisy leaf blowers. Our gardening chores are easy; we don’t spend a lot of time clearing our yards. We do very light weeding about three times a year, mow the lawn tall twice a month leaving all the cut grass in place for natural fertilizer, and trim bushes so they don’t touch our house. We have several evergreens that I remember not liking at first but now I realize that’s where the birds sleep at night.
Finally, one of the most important things we have done is to plant nine trees on our property to benefit wildlife and the environment. Even in a small land like ours that was possible.