As spring arrives, Naperville resident Patricia Armstrong does a controlled burn in her yard to kill off the chemicals and weeds in the ground, making room native landscaping to grow.
“We’re trying to make not just a garden with flowers all in a row but an entire habitat where insects, and birds, and worms and Sal bugs so all of those little creatures can live together in harmony,” said Armstrong.
She founded a DuPage County chapter of the not-for-profit, Wild Ones, a group that began in Wisconsin to encourage homeowners to replace their lawns with native prairies.
Doing so can provide a habitat for insects that act like natural pollinators, helping the flowers flourish without much effort from humans.
“You don’t have to spray any pesticides. You don’t have to have [a] lawn. You don’t have to mow because native plants are adaptive to our soil and our climate so native plants can get by with very little help from people,” Armstrong said.
That also reduces carbon emissions in the air, which have been linked to heart and lung cancers. Another benefit to native plants is that they’re perennials, meaning you don’t have to replant them every year, and because their roots go much deeper into the ground the roots of the grass in a typical yard, they also better absorb rainwater, which can ultimately protect your home from floods.
“When we had the flood here a few years ago, 19 inches of rain in 24 hours, not a single drop ran out of my yard,” Armstrong.
If the idea of turning your entire yard into a native prairie seems overwhelming, you can start with portions of it.
“You can put pathways in it. You can limit it,” said fellow member Herb Nadelhoffer.
“It can be a lot of prairie or a little prairie. You can still put blue grass where you want it like we have blue grass in our front yard.” Nadelhoffer and his wife Mary Lou Wherli, a commissioner for the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, joined the Wild Ones a few years ago. With the group’s help, they now have a variety of native plants in their backyard that will blossom as the weather warms.
“Wild Ones has brought into our lives a much broader appreciation of Illinois and how even in an urban, typical quarter cre lot we can participate in making the environment better not only naturally but our enjoyment of it. It’s a beautiful place to be.”
Armstrong says that now is a good time to plan your planting, as many local gardening nurseries will soon start to have native plant sales throughout may.
For more information, visit www.dupage.wildones.org.
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