While winter is still lingering on, it is an excellent time to plan springtime projects that will contribute to a healthier watershed? At least one such project, landscaping with native plants, can be very rewarding as well as very beneficial for the watershed.
You will surely find incorporating native plants into your landscaping to be an enrichment in your life in many ways. You will be able to enjoy many of the pollinators—butterflies, bees, and moths—as they go about their business of helping the flowers reproduce. The birds that the native flowers attract will undoubtedly be a source of enjoyment as will the colors, textures and forms of the native plants. Landscaping with native plants will provide natural habitat that is essential for the healthy functioning of the watershed.
The native plants contribute to water quality because their very long root systems penetrate deep into the soil and help it absorb the waters that would otherwise rush off into the stormwater system. The natives help slow and filter out many of the pollutants that would otherwise be transported into the stormwater system and our streams, thus protecting the aquatic life in the stream from their devastating impact. Humans also benefit greatly from this protection of our waterways. Other benefits of dedicating a portion of your lawn to native plant landscaping, are the time you will save by not mowing that portion of your lawn and the money you will save on gas. The non-native turf grasses in the typical urban lawn often require additional watering and fertilizing, and their short root systems do not significantly contribute to the absorption and filtering of stormwater.
Missouri native plants have evolved in this climate over thousands of years and are survivors of our sometimes very wet, sometimes very dry, sometimes very hot, and sometimes very cold conditions. After the natives are established, they rarely require any watering other than that provided by nature and they do not require fertilizers. There are native flowers and grasses to survive nearly every growing condition from wet to dry and shady to sunny, and, by choosing different varieties, you can ensure that there will be lovely flowers and grasses throughout the growing season.
There are excellent resources available to help you plan a special natural refuge in your yard. One of these, a book, Tried and True Missouri Native Plants For Your Yard, has recently been offered by the Missouri Department of Conservation. It has color photos of a wide variety of flowers, shrubs, trees, ferns, grasses and sedges along with pertinent information about growing conditions, sizes etc. It also contains landscaping information, as well as other resources and is available through the MDC. The Grow Native website, www.grownative.org, is another excellent resource for landscaping with natives and provides sources for native plants and seeds.
You can learn about other beneficial actions you can take to care for our water resource at www.sgrwa.org