Now is the time to formalize plans which address those “maybe next year” or “wouldn’t it be nice if” ideas so many of us have heard ourselves mumble as we walked around our properties in past years. With the help of planning and goal-setting, maybe this spring we will finally tear out that ever-expanding patch of invasive honeysuckle or barberry and replace it with similarly statured native Red Osier Dogwood, Nine Bark, or American Cranberry. Perhaps this year is the time to replant a White or Red Oak tree where that old half-dead Maple is or used to be. Or, with planning, maybe this is the year to finally reduce the size of the sterile must-be-mowed turf grass by expanding borders of perennial, herbaceous natives such as Asters and Sunflowers, etc. Doing any or all of these things will increase the biodiversity, aesthetic pleasure, and ecosystem services our properties provide.

Planning now helps things happen come spring. I used to be associated with the mail order gardening industry where catalogue mailings were timed to be received immediately after the New Year. Response rates were better at that time. This was because in winter we daydream about the coming spring and seem to need to have things to look forward to.  So, we make plans and lists and purchases of selected plant material. Now, and for many reasons, we encourage you to plan to “Plant Native for Biodiversity” this coming year.

For those of you who have followed the previous blog entries on this “Plant Native for Biodiversity” topic, you will not be surprised to hear me encourage folks to visit these two sites: www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder or www.audubon.org/plantsforbirds. There, you can simply type in your zip code and have listed for you the top native tree, shrub, and herbaceous plant genera for your area. Also, in Appendix One of Douglas Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home, entitled “Native Plants with Wildlife Value and Desirable Landscaping Attributes by Region,” you’ll find another excellent reference.

Making thoughtful plant choices that are known to support the greatest regional biodiversity, not only helps simplify your plant material choices but also ensures your landscape provides a broad range of ecologic services. This feels good.

Though I am no fan of proselytizing, I come darn close to it when it comes to promoting Douglas Tallamy. In his book Nature’s Best Hope, he points out that their research suggests “about 5% of the local plant genera hosted 70 to 75% of the local lepidoptera (Moth and Butterfly) species. These 5% of all local plant genera are therefore called “keystone” species. The list of keystone tree, shrub, and herbaceous genera for our area is relatively short and, therefore, simplifies plant selection big time.

Why, you might ask, are Lepidoptera so darn important? Well, it is because these are the “grazers” feeding on the plant “producers” at the bottom of the food web. These “grazers” are the foundation upon which all higher trophic levels are built. Moth and butterfly larvae and caterpillars are highly concentrated energy and protein packets and are essential to successful songbird nesting. Even seed-eating birds feed their young caterpillars because there is nothing nearly as nutritious. Neotropical migrant songbirds fly thousands of miles to nest right here precisely because of this abundance – an abundance diminishing as our native species are replaced with non-native lawns and ornamentals from other regions. Because of this trend, songbirds are in decline. We can help them by planting natives.

Please do a little research, make some plans incorporating recommended natives, and buy the plant material now. You, and lots of other critters, will find rewards in doing so. I promise.

For additional information, please contact us at info@valleystewardshipnetwork.org.