Island Bed facing Front Door
Island Bed facing Driveway
Island Bed facing Street
Island Bed facing Street
Patio Facing Driveway
Far End of Patio
Digging Out Pond Area at Far End of Patio
Installed Bog Area Next to Pond
Southside Narrow Area Next to Neighbor Yard
Stepping Stone Path Added
Walk Area Between House and Island Bed
Handmade Rebar Arbor
Path Around South End Island Bed
Grass Walking Area by Back Fence
Back Fence Area near Pond and Patio
Few evergreen shrubs at house entrance, two apple trees front yard, large mature ash tree back yard and a sea of fescue...our first year, this was the gardens. Several crazy years of soil amending, planting everything but the kitchen sink, all nursery plants from other countries, native - exotic? hadn't a clue as to difference, just planted the ways of my mom and dad. Results weren't too shabby, but the cost and maintenance was a killer.
The gardens standing today (a result of enlightenment to the native plant landscape movement) came about in an effort to relieve the burden of expense and time, and attract the wildlife that the old gardens failed to do. Little of the old gardens exist now. Soil amendment practices stopped and we worked with what we had (native soil). We began planting a diversity of plants indigenous to our area to cut down on a single type of insect creating too much damage. Anything that had to be sprayed with fungicides bit the dust first. It has been a learning process that is still going on today. Some of the exotics still exist, as huge shrubs are a bummer to remove; so unless we become extremely energetic, or one happens to keel over dead, we just live with them for now.
Took perhaps five years to create a well rounded ecosystem within the gardens. We had to practically tie our hands behind our backs not to use pesticides and herbicides, as all things bad seemed to zero in on our yard. To attract ladybugs, lacewings, and other beneficial insects, beetles and spiders, we had to leave their food source in place, and for several years we did live with a lot of plant damage. A wonderful thing began to happen in the third year. Enough beneficials were multiplying in the gardens to start bridging the gap between the good and the bad. Butterfly larvae eat lots of plants and of course you want them, or you would not have the butterflies. They munch in our gardens, along with other good and bad, but no one notices the damage as it blends into the lush landscape and seems to disappear. Even the weeds (or what most non-native gardeners call weeds) blend in nicely. I have had people stop when I am in the front gardens and ask me how I keep all the weeds pulled. I just laugh and tell them that while I do removes the weeds around the outer edges of the gardens, they still exist beyond the edges...they just blend in with the lush landscape and seem to disappears.
Is wildlife gardening a piece-of-cake? ...not really...it is work - but, you've eliminated most of the lawn mowing, never have to mix up those tanks of fungicides to spray all that black rot and black spot prone stuff, you've tremendously cut down on how often you need to water, and most yard debris is recycled in the compost bin to be put back into the gardens as your fertilizer. Throw in some mulch in the appropriate areas and, while you will not have a work free yard (those only exist where you have poured a concrete slab), you have a different kind of work related yard that can be attended to more leisurely. While I have never regretted this type of gardening, I do regret that we had to undo so much of the work we had already invested in the yard, in order to free ourselves from being its slave. Life's a learning process and we have had a lot of learning and re-learning to do over these past years.
Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies,
for strip-mined mountain's majesty
above the asphalt plain.
man sheds his waste on thee,
and hides the pines
with billboard signs,
from sea to oily sea.