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I visited Quora the other day and saw a question I felt I could answer. It got me thinking about sustainability from a different perspective, namely what don’t we know or what is not well known about the topic. I couldn’t find the question in my stream ( just don’t have the hang of it yet) but thought it was a good one. I would like to address it here.

When we decide to use our landscapes more efficiently, more sustainably many factors must be taken into account. Let’s start here:

  1. Site Evaluation: when looking at your property, an often forgotten aspect, is where are the utility lines on the property? This is especially true if you live in a newer area where power cables are underground. It’s also true if you are working with a business property. No one wants to dig into lines and sever them.
  2. To be successful in planting where is the windbreak? For example, in New England, winds in my area typically come in from the N, NW in winter. These are cold and can be severe. Plants have to be able to withstand these extremes. A good tip if you have to transplant a small tree is to mark the north side. Then when replanting it, keep the north side of the tree in the north. Your tree will have a better chance of surviving winter.
  3. Butterfly gardens are really popular. We have a fascination and appreciation with these beautifully colored insects. However, they need one plant for the larva to eat and grow and make a chrysalis and another plant to eat from when fully emerged as the butterfly. As a mature butterfly they eat the nectar from many flowers. For example, butterfly bush is very popular as a source of nectar for the mature butterfly. It does not support the larva. It is not native here either. While it is a lovely addition to the garden, larva need something else. Butterfly weed, Asclepius tuberosa, is a lovely orange flowered plant that not only attracts many butterflies but can be a food source for larva. Milkweed, Asclepius incarnata, is another suggestion. Milkweeds are found in many sites often those ready to be developed. We sacrifice these wonderful open lands and the beneficial plants that exist in this environment for the sake of development. Habitat reduction has been seriously reduced all over this globe. Also Butterflies do not travel very far and many have a home territory. If we disrupt the habitat we can lose a species. Reasons are complex but know that most  butterflies are home bodies.
  4. Years ago there was a magazine titled Garbage. I learned, in this magazine, that it takes up to seven miles of marshland to filter and purify our water. I have seen two large shopping malls in New England built on marshland.  Again we sacrifice  biodiversity, decrease habitat, increase stormwater runoff and consume more resources. Today we can no longer claim innocence. We know better. Are you involved in town planning? Do you want to make your voice known for development in your area? Are you wanting to create sustainable homes and yards but frustrated with surrounding neighbors lack of awareness?
  5. Bug facts: most are beneficial and contribute to quality of life here on earth. We have forgotten to have a relationship with them and to recognize how invaluable there are. Doug Tallamy in, Bringing Nature Home, reminds me that one oak tree can support over 400 species ( this includes birds etc)! When we look at imported Asian plant varieties, we see that they simply cannot compete. One theory is our bugs have not developed a taste for them. Lovely Clematis, introduced over a hundred years ago supports only one species. Diversity while frequently highlighted in this type of discussion needs more emphasis and facts. I find Doug’s book does just that.

We have many resources today to find out answers to questions. We have just as many causes that desperately need our attention. What is your passion? Mine is reclaiming lawn (my book will be out soon) and how we can diversify a landscape. Meadows may not be considered as pretty as formal gardens. The species they support, the soil that gets replenished, the water that soaks, the urban heat they mitigate, all contribute to sustaining our natural world.

What’s your passion? What have you done to your own yard, lawn to bring back diversity? Let’s share ideas.



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