Thursday, August 7, 2014

Not even an Ant

Existing Native Garden Bed installed last year
Recently someone wrote and asked how our native plant gardens fared over this record breaking winter in Northwest Ohio.   Oh my gosh, double gosh even.  I knew I was tardy in posting here but didn’t realize how negligent I’ve been.  My extreme apologies and to answer your question Matt, the gardens came through the deep snow and cold temperatures without a second thought.  This is yet another reminder that these native plants are perfectly adapted to conditions here.   They evolved here over thousands and thousands and thousands of years with their roots in these soils, coping with fluctuating temperatures, and seasonal water variations that make me uncertain what to wear from day to day.  In fact, our gardens performed so well that several weeks ago we expanded the native plant garden in the front of our house close to the street.  I was delighted to remove some more lawn from the yard.  I want to say in Perrysburg we like to use dynamite to get weeds extracted from the rock hard clay soil but that’s probably somewhat of an exaggeration.  In this case an hour with a pick mattock enabled me to strip the turf grass from the designated 3 foot x 10 foot area.  I was going to use the removed turf as mulch so I set about shaking the soil from the short roots of the extracted grass.  As I knelt there playing with the dirt, I watched some ants working to repair the disturbance I had made to the adjacent garden bed. 
Preparing the additional space

And then it hit me.  I’ve had this experience before  but this “in my face” reminder was still a thought provoking incident.  This grass harbored NO life, at least none that I could see with my naked eye.  There were no earthworms, spiders, millipedes, or pill bugs.  There wasn’t even an ant.  Nothing moved.  And this was a lawn without chemicals.  We had switched to organic lawn care a few years back and never looked back. 

Native Bumblebee on Wild Bergamot
Yet just a few inches away, inside the border of the existing native garden, those ants seemed focused on clearing out the entrance to their home on which I had unceremoniously scattered some dirt.  At least three species of native bumblebees were feverishly working over the nearby fading blossoms of the Wild Bergamot.  A small Katydid was perched on the underside of a Sneezeweed leaf, and numerous other winged insects were going about making a living amongst the foliage of the Swamp Milkweed, New England Aster, and Smooth Aster.  A hummingbird scooted in for a quick sip of nectar at the newly blooming Cardinal Flower.  A Silver-spotted Skipper elbowed its way into all the activity.  A foot to the right tiny bees seemed excited the Partridge Pea was now blooming, and some other insects watched from the relative safety of the Virginia Mountain Mint. 

New Addition Area to Native Garden
Sure.  The eye appeal of many of our native plants is alone worth our efforts and the aspect of lower maintenance certainly appeals to many of us.  But for me, my feelings have evolved and I’ve come to believe it’s all about life.  And we certainly get that with our native gardens.  Not only are the gardens full of life.  They make our lives better too.  


Leah said...

What a great post. The contrast between the wildlife in your turf grass versus around the native plants is startling. Like you, I found that my native plants didn't mind the harsh winter at all.

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