“If all [humankind] were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” — E. O. Wilson, Naturalist
We’re at a life-altering crossroads in the history of human civilization as scientists warn yet again of the importance of acting quickly to stay below 1.5ºC and prevent sustained catastrophic weather events. Pretty terrifying, right? Thankfully, homeowners everywhere can play a vital role in one of the nature-based solutions: planting a maximum number of layered native species in 25% of the front yard, and as much of the backyard as possible, in order to boost biodiversity.
- Small trees
Not only does a small patch of biodiversity significantly boost carbon drawdown in our soil, along with restoring soil health, it restores our ecosystem, helps purify the air and the ground water, and prevents the need for pesticides that kill all the insects.
When neighbors work together on a street and in a neighborhood, with each homeowner planting as many different native species as possible, and their selections being different than their next door neighbor’s, the benefits are increased that much more.
And if every home on a given street and in a neighborhood maximizes biodiversity within the lines of HOA rules, a biodiversity corridor is established. If each neighborhood in a town participates, the corridor becomes that much bigger and the benefits are multiplied. Pollinator species are of vital importance, of course, with lots of milkweed everywhere being the ideal.
Currently, birds are dying en route to their warm winter hangout because there’s so few places to stop and eat. Many birds eat insects, in fact 550 million tons of insects a year according to USA Today. Insects are an excellent source of protein. There are specific native species that can be planted in yards that attract birds like wrens, purple martins and goldfinches which then eat the bugs and act as pest control.
“Each of these species are masterpieces of evolution. Each has persisted for thousands to millions of years. Each is exquisitely adapted to the environment in which it lives, interlocked with other species to form ecosystems upon which our own lives depend in ways we have not begun even to imagine.” —E. O. Wilson
Our temperatures are warming which alters the planting season a bit. Below is a link that advises on best time to plant bare roots in Virginia. The Plant NoVa Native website also has planting schedule details and a lengthy list and description of Northern Virginia native species. Fall is the ideal time if planting seeds.
“Nature and community in harmony.”
LET’S BEGIN. NEXT STEPS:
- Are there existing trees in your yard? Are they native or invasive? If native, continue to Step 2. If Invasive, contact Audubon society and inquire about invasive removal. Invasives destroy our ecosystems and undermine the well-being of insects. If there are no trees in your yard, that’s the first decision you’ll make. What type of tree, large or small?
- Find an online list of native species for your area. Sift through using the following filters: sun/shade, moisture, soil type, color, blooming season, height, hardiness zone.
- What’s growing beneath your trees? For most homeowners, there’s only dry mulch or lawn. Boosting biodiversity is about adding diverse layers of shrubs, perennials and ground cover. Begin with selecting three different native shrubs, each that blossoms in a different season. Ideally, one should be an edible berry shrub. If you choose blackberry, encourage your neighbor to choose blueberry, and the next neighbor red raspberry. Choosing a color scheme (two or three colors) begins here as well and you’ll continue on with the same colors, in various shades, when you selects the perennials. (It’s best not to choose boxed shrubs, but rather the free-growing wild shrubs that we see in forests.)
- Beneath the shrubs, there should be a wide variety of pollinator perennials that blossom in the three different seasons, approximately 7-15 different species, depending on how much land you’re working with.
- Surrounding the base of the perennials, a rich variety of native ground cover. Follow the same rules that you followed for selecting shrubs and perennials. The numbers of different species of ground cover will be approximately double the number of perennials. The circumference is now much bigger and the plants are smaller, so there will be more.
- Annuals should be avoided. Best strategy for ecosystem restoration and carbon drawdown is stability and consistency. Roots will grow and connect beneath the soil surface.
- If town ordinances and HOA covenants allow for a larger area of biodiversity in your neighborhood, and less turf lawn, then the best next step is to connect two trees that have biodiversity build-outs with a biodiversity connector strip. You can add a small tree in the middle if that works, or a larger shrub, and keep layering the same way following the same rules. The goal is to keep the soil covered 100 percent with plants that will create a soil armor, locking in moisture and increasing water infiltration rate.
- Milkweeds are always wonderful along a fenceline.
- This same plan can be executed on a micro scale if your front yard is small.
- Good luck. Let’s make biodiversity happen!
- Free Guide to Native Plants for Northern Virginia
- Virginia Flower Planting Schedule
- Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas W. Tallamy
- Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy
- A Life on Our Planet Netflix
- Breaking Boundaries Netflix
- Brave Mission YouTube Original
“We must rewild the world.”—Sir David Attenborough, A Life on Our Planet
We can do this!
© Copyright 2018 – 2021. ALL Rights Reserved.
✦ By Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO Gallant Gold Media, Founder & Executive Director Climate Action NOW, author and climate journalist