When we moved into our home, the “landscaping” consisted of a little grass here and there, lots of exposed soil from the previous owner scraping around the house to mitigate flooding in the basement, and a few shrubs.
We knew we wanted a native garden, so we decided to use the small front yard for this. The following images show the progression from lawn to native habitat for pollinators & birds.
In the fall – the first step was cutting the grass. We chose to have the sod cut and turned over rather than hauling those resources away. Some people will advise against this because the grass can have a tendency to grow back, but we didn’t find it to be that big of an issue.
We then added a layer of compost on top of the turned over sod for some added nutrients and for better soil texture since our area is heavy clay.
Prairie seeds are planted in the fall, as they need the low winter temperatures to then germinate in the spring – a process called “stratification”.
Along with the native seeds, we added “cover crop” seeds of wheat, oats & peas which would germinate quickly in the fall and help to hold the soil over the winter. The last thing you ever want in a landscape is exposed soil. A storm can come through and wash away all your good soil in a flash if there aren’t plants’ roots working for you & holding the soil in place.
The above view is the garden in July.
Starting from seed can be tricky and take a while for the plants to get established, so we also buy small plants, or plugs, in the spring to fill in the space more quickly. We like to order natives from Prairie Moon Nursery and also visit our many local native plant sales each May.
Here is a closeup of the July blooms – you can see wild bergamot, purple coneflower, anise hyssop and black-eyed susan.
The garden at the end of September is mostly showy asters & goldenrod.
The number of bees & birds we see over the course of the season is incredible. Our neighbor even trimmed some of the plants between our driveways so she could see from her house over into our front yard and watch the wildlife.
This is certainly a work in progress. Each year we will continue to add a few new plants here and there to fill in empty spots and keep any varieties in check that start to take over too much of the space. We want to maintain good biodiversity in this garden to support a wide range of our local birds and insects.