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Timely Tips for March / Using Native Plants in the Landscape

Fertilize indoor plants and transfer root-bound plants.
Make an organized plan for your vegetable garden.  Be sure to include an extra row or two for the local food bank or farmer’s market.
Start pruning fruit trees.  Do apples, pears, cherries, and apricots first.  Save tender trees like peaches, nectarines, and plums for last.
One way to enjoy the remaining winter months is to grow houseplant and windowsill gardens.  To properly grow plants indoors, choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight.
Prune roses and ornamentals.
For tidier flower beds this year and better blooms next year, remove fading blossoms from tulips, daffodils and other spring flowering bulbs but don’t remove the foliage until after it begins to turn yellow.
Now is a good time to plant summer blooming bulbs.
To help conserve moisture and reduce weeds, mulch around your annuals, perennials, and shrubs.

Using Native Plants in the Landscape

Incorporating native species into an existing environment can be easy.  It is just a matter of knowing what each plant needs and being able to meet those needs.
What exactly are native plants?  They are often defined as plants recorded growing wild in an area at the time scientific collection began in that area.  Other plants are considered introduced.
There are some misconceptions about native plants.  It is often stated that native plants have fewer disease and insect problems.  This is not necessarily true.  Some native plants have few problems while others are constantly plagued.  We have higher expectations in a managed landscape.  A native plant suffering from a disease or insect in the woods may go unnoticed.  The same plant in a traditional landscape may give a poor appearance.
Another misconception is that native plants are adapted to this area so they will have superior growth.  In terms of cold hardiness, this is true.  However, when we look at soil we see a different picture.  Many of the soils in our suburban yards are disturbed; they may be primarily subsoil (which is inadequate for plant growth) or a subsoil/topsoil mix.  Mycorrhizal fungi, which are found in undisturbed soils, may be missing.  These fungi help native plants absorb water and nutrients from the soil, leading to better growth.  So a native plant growing in the home landscape may be growing in an altered environment.
A third misconception is that native plants are always more desirable than non-native species.  Poison ivy is native, but far from desirable.  Some natives are aggressive growers, spreading rapidly.  They may overwhelm a small yard or a may not fit well in a traditional landscape.  As with any plant group, careful selections need to be made.
When selecting native plants, consider the plant’s natural habitat.  Each species developed in a specific habitat and will grow best when given conditions that resemble that habitat.  Some species developed in wooded sites and so shade there will be needed.  Woods, however, may be dense or open, so different plants tolerate varying degrees of shade.  Plants from open woods may be able to tolerate a fair amount of sun.  Other species developed in open areas like fields.  These plants are usually going to need full sun.
Every native plant will not be a good match for every garden.  Remember that some native plants can be aggressive in their growth and would not be suited to a small garden.  Not all native plants are attractive.  That is a decision that each gardener must make. 



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