Why Use Native Plants?
Native plants can be used around homes and in gardens to create sustainable landscapes. Most native plants are perennial and have extensive root systems that hold soil and slow runoff. Persistent stems, leaves, and flower parts remain throughout the winter which can also reduce runoff, especially in the spring, as the snow melts and rainfall begins when most new growth is not yet present. Around these native plants particulate matter accumulates and the plants themselves absorb chemicals such as nitrogen and phosphorous that otherwise would enter the runoff.
Successfully growing native plants requires an understanding of the adaptations of the plants to certain light and soil moisture conditions. Prairie plants are adapted to dry, sunny uplands, while woodland plants tolerate shade. Wet meadows contain plants species tolerant of sun and wet soils, while plant species in the emergent zone grow with their stems above water and their roots in water. Submergent or floating leaf plants have stems and leaves under water with some parts above water.
Native plants are self-sustaining and support wildlife such as beneficial insects, pollinators, and native birds. We can create landscapes with native plants in our backyards. Once established, these landscapes can be maintained by sustainable management practices which limits the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Sustainable landscapes require less chemical treatments reducing chemical inputs into the environment which have nontarget effects on the ecosystems, its plants, and its animals. Excess phosphorous and nitrogen from fertilizers can runoff from the landscape into the waterways and create nutrient enrichment that encourages the growth of algae. Native plants used as buffer strips along lake margins can absorb these nutrients. Sustainable management encourages managing pests by using the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which emphasizes lower pesticide usage. Soil structure is improved by adding composted yard waste.
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Sustainable Landscapes and Management for Shorelands