So, you’ve joined the indigenous garden party.   You won’t be sorry-the environmental and economic benefits are enormous.   Your indigenous landscaping skills will attract not only the attention of your neighbors but also the admiration of Chicago’s avid garden walkers.  

Don’t miss Lincoln Square’s Garden Walk on Saturday, August 1, starting at Giddings Plaza, 4731 N. Lincoln Avenue.   Admire and learn as you witness the creativity of city gardens meticulously maintained by Lincoln Square residents.   Not only will you enjoy a study in human diversity, but you will also enjoy a study in native gardening diversity.  

Be sure to attend many of the other Chicagoland Garden Walk neighborhood events this summer and socialize with folks who are probably dying to answer your questions about their gardening experiences.   Draw a picture of how you’d like your own yard (or sections of your yard) to look in 2010.   A paper visual is a constant reminder to help you reach your goals.  

Plan to remake your yard in sections.   Start small.   Use inconspicuous parts of the yard as you begin the conversion to natives.   Your neighbors might look askance, so be sure to share your knowledge with them.   With all the benefits to growing natives, you may find that not only your yard but also your neighbors are converting to indigenous.   Consider placing a border around your native landscape parcel as you introduce this new look to your property.   Also be sure in this planning stage to research local landscaping ordinances, such as the maximum vegetation height allowed.  

Before you start to dig, here’s an idea of what easy-to-grow plant species are readily available in Midwest nurseries.   Try local Andersonville favorite Gethsemane Gardens.   These plant lists are geared toward modest projects (for a more comprehensive list, go to the EPA site). Be sure to ask plenty of questions at your local nurseries.  

Also consider nature’s creatures and what you might want to attract to your landscape.   Are you looking to attract song birds?   Think Sunflower, Blazing Star, Dogwood, Switch Grass, Hackberry, Elderberry, and Hawthown.

If you prefer hummingbirds, they are naturally drawn to Columbine, Native Honeysuckle, and Cardinal Flower.

Butterflies might be welcome visitors to your landscape.   Attract them by planting Milkweed, Aster, Purple Cone-Flower, Blazing Star, Native Phlox, Black-Eyed Susan, Coreopsis, Goldenrod, and Ironweed.

Now, are you ready to roll up your sleeves and cut some sod?     Start by visiting your local hardware store, where you’ll rent a sod cutter.   Your soil is your foundation.   The better you treat your soil, the more successful your native planting.  

This is the time to place a Do Not Disturb sign on your exposed soil:   You disturb the soil, you expose weed seeds.    This is an open invitation for weeds to grow, and surely those weeds will be crashing your indigenous garden party soon enough.   During their fledgling growth, the last thing your native seedlings need is weeds noshing on soil nutrients, drinking all the water, and basking in the sunlight.  

Your young seeds need all the nutrition, water, and warmth they can get at this critical point.   Some people decide to use herbicides to remove unwanted vegetation.  Please be cautious if you opt for this and use a low-toxicity, non-persistent herbicide.   Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you shop for an herbicide. Look for the key ingredient of glyphosate when you shop, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

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