Many of the really wonderful things in life come at a cost. And that cost is work, effort, toil. At least that has been my experience, especially if you are a gardener. Gardens don’t just grow beautiful without a helping hand. Usually that hand is gloved and attached to a body that is bent over in the hot sun questioning why they even love doing this. Well, again that may just be me, as I toil in the Virginia heat trying not to pass out into a pile of stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum). Boy does that cold beverage taste even better after all that weeding, if you don’t believe me give it a try.
So why am I telling you about how hard starting a native plant garden is?
Because where there is discouragement there is the opportunity for encouragement! And I am here to encourage you, remind you that planting native plants on your property is a big picture activity. And one that will reap great rewards if you just put in the effort up front. Now I have gone a little overboard in scale because this is my passion. I highly encourage the novice to start small. Such as in a small controlled planting bed close to water and tools. Try filling in the spaces between the foundation bushes you already have with native perennial forb (a flowering plant). There are some nice suggestions if you follow the link.
As soon as the gardener gets started with the first native plant in the ground the non-native invasive plants are there, lurking, laughing, and plotting to beat your ball cap covered head, and push their insidious roots into your psyche. NO! I will not let you win! Down with the exotic invasive! I will not be discouraged. I know that a little grit, a little stick-to-it-ness will give my native plants time to fill in the gaps and fight the good fight against the enemy.
Yes this is my little pep talk as I ready myself for a few hours of weeding. Below are before and after photographs of a few hours of weeding, and be sure to follow the links provided to learn about the native and non-native invasive plants featured in this post.
Remember – weed before they go to seed. And don’t get discouraged, good will win out in the end.
BEFORE: all the thick green foliage here is low smartweed (Persicaria longiseta). This non-native invasive plant grows thick and dense. The problem with this is it will choke out the native and create a mono culture.
AFTER: With all the smartweed removed you can see the Eastern Narrow-leaved Sedge (Carex amphibola) I planted and the native violets that have volunteered. This area, over time, will fill in with native plants. The more I selectively control and remove the smartweed before it goes to seed the less I will have to fight in the future.
As this habitat restoration project grows the sedge will spread and fill in as a ground cover. In the spring I will consider adding some ferns as well to start building up the “forest floor” structure. Think in vertical terms, the goal is to create layers of vegetation from ground cover, low, mid, high and canopy forest layers.