Getting started

The adventure begins here. Plant it and they will come.

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Evan Abramson/Landscape Interactions Swallowtail Butterflies on Joe Pye Weed

What’s in a Two Thirds Landscape? Habitat. What’s Habitat?

Food: Native plants with year round fruit, nuts, seeds, leaves and flowers. Lots of insects.

Water: Bird baths, water features, streams or ponds. Open water in winter too.

Shelter: Varied options for birds and insects to hide from predators, lay eggs, raise young. Leaf litter, nest boxes, snags (dead trees), brush piles.

What’s Not in a Two Thirds Landscape?

Pesticides: Bugs eat leaves, birds eat bugs. Birds need bugs to thrive. Let bugs eat some leaves. The trees really don’t mind.

Stress: Let it be. Nature is the best designer and takes care of things pretty darn well.

What To Plant? Right Plant, Right Place. How does that work?

When plants get to live where they evolved, the place and conditions that are just right for them, they require little input to be happy and healthy. How to know what is the right plant for your place?

1. Get to know your place:

What conditions do you offer? Is your place sunny, shady, windy, wet, or dry? You may have all these conditions in different parts of your place: lots of opportunities for a variety of happy plants.

What kind of soil do you have? – Dig some holes in different areas. Rub the soil between your fingers. Is it sandy or sticky (clay). Pour some water in. Does it drain well? Take a sniff. Earthy means good organic content. There are plants for all different soils. Choose plants that like yours.

Are your plants Natives? Exotics? Invasives? No idea what you have? Ask your County Cooperative Extension State Extension Master Gardener Program, local garden club, or neighborhood know-it-all. Bird watchers are often good sources too, check out local clubs like Audubon.

Where are you? Do you know your ecosystem? Visit a natural/wild place nearby. Check out the plants and plantings you think are beautiful. Copy that.

2. Get to know some native plants:

What do you want? “Woody” plants are trees and shrubs; “Herbaceous” are flowers, grasses, groundcovers.

Where? Sun or shade, wet or dry. Replace some lawn you aren’t using.

Which? See below: Data bases, Books

Go shopping. Start with local garden centers and encourage them to stock a good selection and offer great advice. Follow up with online growers. Confirm they grow without pesticides, especially neonics.

Befriend a gardener – join a garden club

Native Plant Databases – a few of our favorites

3. Maintain without Pesticides:

It is all about the process, not products. Don’t default to buying something. If it comes in a package, what has that got to do with the natural process?

Most insects are good. They are food for birds. Get to know who you wish to kill. Bug Finder and many more

Basic chemical free (nature based) practices:

  • Feed the soil and its biome, not the plants.
  • Close the loop–keep all biomass on the property–give your plants the food they made for themselves: be creative with compost, reduce the load on our landfills and the release of greenhouse gasses.
  • Water very seldom, water very deep.
  • Leave dead wood whenever possible – it is an endangered micro habitat.
  • Avoid shearing and pruning – every cut is a wound.
  • Spend time in your landscape not fussing, just observing.
  • Let go. Question all inclinations to suppress nature.

more info:

There is always more you can do, it just gets more interesting.

The Ten Commitments

  1. I will embrace this place as my partner. I will get to know what it really needs, and all that it offers.
  2. I will do this place no harm, I will use no toxic fertilizers or pesticides.
  3. I will use nature based practices to support the health of my landscape.
  4. I will keep and compost all the biomass (leaves and twigs and grass) that grows here. This is the food my place made for itself.
  5. I will not kill insects until I know their names and understand if it is really necessary and how to do it without killing innocent bystanders.
  6. I will reduce the size of my lawn to just what gets used.
  7. I will plant two thirds native plants to provide food and shelter for song birds.
  8. I will get to know the names of my plants and birds and bugs and include them as family and friends.
  9. I will carefully consider everything I bring here—will it be useful for a very long time? Can it be composted or repurposed? Does it really need to be plastic?
  10. I will keep thinking of more ways to make this relationship fun, interesting and rewarding, I will be faithful, through pestilence and abundance, through sun and storm, through downpours and droughts, I will take care of my place and all the wonders it provides, so that we all shall live.

4. Getting Good Professional Help:

5. Track your Progress (and get to know your birds and insects at the same time):

6. Learn the language:

“If you do not know the names of things, the knowledge of them is lost, too.”

— Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778)

Speak Botanical Latin – it isn’t as hard as it may seem.

Latin names are daunting for many, but a cozy club for the initiated. They are both descriptive and poetic. For instance: Viburnum dentatum; The first word is the Genus, the second is the species. There are many different Viburnums, a type of flowering shrub. The species name is generally descriptive, and helpful in recognizing which is which. In this case, dentatum is the Viburnum species with the dentate (toothed) leaf edges.

Don’t be afraid to just dive in and start using them, and saying them out loud. Pronunciation is highly subjective and only needs to be delivered with confidence to be accepted, but you generally can’t miss if you put the accent on the second syllable. The hero of all this is Carl Linnaeus, who invented the system, which is based on sex. He also had a great eye: he papered his bedroom walls with botanical prints…in the 1700’s.

Read the Classics:

  • Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold
  • Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
  • Noah’s Garden, Sara Stein
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
  • Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Bringing Nature Home and Nature’s Best Hope, Doug Tallamy
  • Planting in a Post Wild World, Claudia West and Thomas Rainer
  • The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, Douglas W. Tallamy and Rick Darke

7. Follow Complicated Conversations

8. Keep a Journal

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