So many opportunities, and some challenges, too.
Replacing just a portion of a lawn with trees and native shrubs provides so many opportunities.
This is just a partial list:
There's the opportunity to...
1. Support the life of birds.
2. Increase the numbers of pollinators.
3. Provide more food for wildlife.
4. Give the world more butterflies and moths, more ladybugs and light'n bugs.
5. Lower the burden on water supplies.
6. Reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by not burning fossil fuels in the mowers and blowers and in the trucks that carry mow n blow crews.
7. Cut down on the gallons of pesticides and herbicides sprayed over our neighborhoods.
8. Keep our houses cooler in the summer with the shade and warmer in the winter with the shelter.
9. Free up all those hours spent every summer mowing and blowing and watering and spraying.
10. Provide natural beauty and peace.
Of course, with OPPORTUNITIES come CHALLENGES.
Luckily, they are few, and easy to deal with.
Luckily, they are few, and easy to deal with.
Trees grow so slowly
1. “A long journey begins with a single step.” It takes many years to grow a tree. So the very first thing you need is PATIENCE. You may move away before any tree has matured, but if you have planted just one oak and left its leaves beneath it, you have enriched the ecosystem by planting a tree that will support the hundreds of caterpillar species and the birds that rely on them to feed their offspring. Plus, you'll never want to use any kind of pesticide. Even if the caterpillars eat all of the leaves, it's not like this is that tree's first caterpillar rodeo - or its ten thousandth. The tree will leaf out again once the insects are finished. After all, the trees and the bugs have long since worked out this co-existence thing. That's why you chose a native tree.
Aren't trees expensive to buy?
2. Purchasing and planting even one tree can be EXPENSIVE. Go to a commercial nursery and you can spend over $500 for one white oak - and that will be so big you'll have to pay someone else to haul it and plant it. A locally owned native plant nursery will be able to guide you toward something appropriate for your yard - and less expensive. Or you can get ten - count ‘em, ten - hardwood seedlings from the Georgia Forestry Commission for 35 bucks. Or bare root seedings free by joining the Arbor Day Foundation. Or you could invest some patient sweat equity on a rescue with a group in your area like the Georgia Native Plant Society. It needn't be expensive as long as you are patient.
What will the NEIGHBORS say?
3. It’s a free country - unless you live in a subdivision with a Homeowner’s Association. Neighbors may quickly declare a vibrant, varied native garden, "messy." Don't let them get started about the charming wildness of a meadow area. But who doesn't love trees? If you are reducing grass in the front where everyone can see, plant the trees that will become the tallest first, and - for awhile, at least - continue to mow the grass around them, leaving the area under the expanding canopy mulched with the tree's own leaves. (The neighbors will be clueless about what you are up to.) As you expand adding more native trees and shrubs, make a neat edge with stone curbing or garden flowers between the mowed and the natural.
Trees are MESSY!
4. Yes, you don't want to discover the special characteristics of sweetgum balls when you walk barefoot on your patio. Or learn what the fruits of a Black Cherry are like if you park your car under one. Trees roots are curious about sewer and septic systems, too. So consider issues like that when deciding what and where to plant. Water supply and sewer lines in good condition present no problems, but if you want to be extra cautious, click HERE for sewer safe trees. Click HERE for suggestions on what to plant if you have a septic system. Ask good questions at the nursery. But do welcome everything that trees drop. Their leaves, flowers, seeds, and branches when left on the ground provide vital habitat for all those tiny members of our ecosystem necessary for the life and breath of our Earth.
5. I don’t want to plant something that will just fall on my house. True, what goes up. must come down. Like, later, much later. Average life spans for oaks range from 100 to 300 years (some can live 900 years!) So, while you might feel a skosh uncomfortable for giving some poor homeowner a removal problem sometime in, say, 2270, think of the millions (billions?) of birds, butterflies and moths that will have thrived because of what you planted. Think of the tons of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. Besides, they’ll have some kind of space laser that’ll turn an old tree into mulch by then, won’t they? Do plant at least six feet away from the foundation, and if you plant several trees close together (as you should), the roots will intertwine to create a mighty mass resistant to the strongest winds.
6. I have NO IDEA how to start. Well, sir or madam, that is why you are reading this document.
But WHAT to plant?