REAL ESTATE- GIMME SHELTER- Wild Garden! Go green this spring

Marlene A. Condon
Author of The Nature-friendly Garden.


Q: We would love to go totally "green" this year and not use pesticides when in our garden, but is that really possible if we want a thriving garden?

A: Absolutely! I have gardened for decades without pesticides. My 2,000 square-foot garden has produced enough fruits and veggies each year for personal use, to share with friends and neighbors, and to preserve by canning and freezing. My yard teems with numerous kinds of flowers, wild grasses, shrubs, and trees, and best of all, it is alive with a fascinating array of critters. A landscape full of wildlife is a landscape that is healthy— and that's why people should model their landscapes upon Mother Nature's example.

Understanding the Basis of Nature-friendly Gardening 

The biggest mistake a gardener can make is to create a manicured landscape that cannot support a mix of wildlife. Without a variety of organisms to keep each other's numbers in check, your landscape is doomed to overpopulations of some critters. Overpopulations cause problems for the gardener because these poor animals do need to eat!

Creating a Nature-friendly Garden 

Designing a nature-friendly garden is easy. The idea is to create good soil over time with the help of creatures such as slugs, snails, and even immature beetles, known as grubs (that's right, do not apply milky spore disease all over your lawn). Above ground, plan on three levels of plant growth: herbaceous flowers and grasses (the shortest level), shrubs and small trees (the mid-level), and very large shrubs and trees (the tallest level). Drinking and bathing water can be supplied via a small artificial pond or a shallow pan at ground level.

The Joys of the Nature-friendly Garden 

A nature-friendly garden provides the living requirements– food, water, shelter, nesting sites– of many kinds of wildlife. The benefit to you, besides the avoidance of problems, is that instead of living in a sterile, static, and lifeless garden, you get to be surrounded by a fascinating assemblage of critters. The singing of birds, frogs, and various kinds of insects can be wonderful, affirming that you have managed to rebuild the Eden that man inherited but misguidedly degraded.

Gardening Tips

Don't sweat the inconsequential stuff. Natural gardens do not look like plastic perfection. Expect small holes in leaves (plants are not harmed by this), insects wandering around on your plants (many are looking to feed upon other insects), and even some curled leaves (some insects wrap themselves up for protection from predators). 

Be patient! Mother Nature knows what she's doing, but you must give her the time she needs. For example, ants took care of Gypsy Moth eggs in my yard— but it was 10 days before they found them.

All food gardens should be fenced. Mammals can't be expected to know that your food plants are off limits.

Learn about wildlife. All creatures provide a service for the environment; that's why they exist.