From left, clockwise: Bee Balm, photo by Britt Slattery; American toad, by Issac Chellman USGS; Monarch butterfly by Randy Loftus USFWS, Kentucky warbler USFWS.
Using native plants invites wildlife into your yard.

The Problem
Sixteen million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Each of us contributes to nutrient pollution. Nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus, are found in organic matter, fertilizers, pet wastes and more. When it rains, nutrients from streets, lawns, farms and sewage-treatment plants wash into streams and rivers, eventually entering the Bay. These excess nutrients fuel the rapid growth of algae that cloud the water and reduce sunlight reaching bay grasses. When these algae die, huge amounts of oxygen are used up as they decay.

Reduce Your Impact
Typical landscapes need high inputs of chemicals, fertilizers, water and time, and require a lot of energy (human as well as gas-powered) to maintain. Environmental impacts can be reduced more by decreasing the area requiring gas-powered tools, using native species that can be sustained with little watering and care and using a different approach to maintenance practices.

Lawn planted with native plants requires little maintenance, but looks spectacular. Photo by Britt Slattery USFWS
Lawn planted with native plants requires little maintenance, but looks spectacular.

More Native Plants, Less Work
One of the simplest ways to reduce your impact is by replacing some lawn areas with locally native trees, shrubs and perennial plants. Native plants naturally occur in the region in which they evolved.

The roots of these larger plants are also deeper than that of typical lawn grass, and so they are better at capturing rainwater. Because native plants are adapted to local soils and climate conditions, they generally require less watering and fertilizing than non-natives. Natives are often more resistant to insects and disease as well, and so are less likely to need pesticides.

BayScape planting at Chespeake Bay Field Office's entry. Photo by Britt Slattery USFWS
BayScape planting at Chespeake Bay Field Office's entry.

Help Wildlife
The structure, leaves, flowers, seeds, berries and other fruits of these plants provide food and shelter for a variety of birds and other wildlife. So instead of planting a tree in the middle of lawn, try grouping trees, shrubs and perennials to create layers of vegetation. These layers provide the structure and variety needed to support wildlife. Plants that produce seeds, nuts, berries or nectar provide sources of food. Stems and seed heads of flowers and grasses can provide food and cover throughout fall and winter.

Small Steps - Big Payback
By redefining landscaping and gradually shifting to using native species, landowners receive greater rewards, in terms of cleaner streams, improved aesthetics, cost savings and providing food and homes for wildlife.

For more information check out Native Plants for Wildlife and Conservation Landscaping.

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