Okay! We’re taking a new spin with this ‘Tea Growing” shenanigans. This is going to broaden into my “Gardening Experiments” category and I’m perfectly okay with that.
This post will be the first about Gardening for Nature, in which we discuss various things (probably over multiple entries) involved in Gardening for Nature. (Wildlife Habitat, native plants, accepting the food chain, encouraging birds while limiting them nicely from your berries and shit, etc)
So, first off, you can get your yard recognized as a National Wildlife Habitat in the USA! I did this, and since then the city has stopped citing my yard for “grass/vegetation over 10 inches in height.” I can’t be more pleased with how this little metal sign by my stoop has helped to make people aware of the fact that I’m not just a lazy homekeeper: there is a very strong intent in how I design and maintain my yards! It’s for the critters, y’all!
To get your yard certified you need to provide the critters with: food, water, cover, and places to raise young, while displaying sustainable practices. This generally means organic pest control: ie: getting out there and crushing the bad bugs, refraining from spraying weed killer, discouraging the monstrous monoculture known as the Great American Lawn with useful plants like clover and other native ground cover, and so forth. It’s really that simple to get started!
Check out the NWF’s page about it here: https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Certify
I didn’t just stop at certifying my yard as a Wildlife Habitat. I’ve also worked every year to introduce or maintain native plant species in my yard, and to cut back on invasive species. For instance, I ripped out a big swath of the invasive English Ivy under my Japanese Maple tree and put down a thick layer of cedar mulch. This cleared, tree-sheltered place is where I have my suet feeders and ground dish for bird bathing/drinking. This one spot actually checks all the boxes of the Wildlife Habitat by itself because of its proximity to larger Crimson Maple trees and native Camellia and Azalea shrubs.
Things have begun progressing on their own, now that I’ve given the native species their chance at reclamation. Late this summer (2019) and early fall, I noticed some tall plants in the border hedge by my milkweed plantings….and discovered they are native Goldenrod! What a great surprise.
Yes, milkweed, you read that right. I planted 2 varieties this year (2019) for the Monarch Fucking Butterflies, and NOT ONE critter came and laid eggs on them. I had to STEAL monarch caterpillars from my mom’s house and transplant them on my milkweed because there were TOO MANY on her plants to survive. But, my yard being a natural habitat…..I only witnessed one of those 20-some-odd caterpillars form a chrysalis and become a butterfly successfully. The others, I strongly suspect, became bird or stinkbug food.
STINKBUGS EAT MONARCH CATERPILLARS. I LEARNED THAT THIS YEAR.
But the point is: gardening for wildlife is simple, low-cost, improves the world at large and your personal happiness at small, and becomes its own success if you use native plants.