Green Venture’s EcoHouse is home to hundreds of native plants. Each year our crews care for our growing gardens and in turn, protect the ecosystem surrounding EcoHouse. Before you make a trip to a plant nursery or garden centre this weekend, consider planting native plants and gardening for nature as well as beauty and curb appeal!
Native Plants Around EcoHouse
Why do we choose native plants?
What defines a native plant? Native plants are plants that have evolved in a specific place and are adapted to those ecosystems and environmental conditions. Over time many plants have co-evolved with other animals and insects, becoming key habitats and food sources. For example, the New Jersey Tea plant is one of the only food sources for the Mottled Duskywing butterfly caterpillars. Similarly, monarch caterpillars can only survive if the mother monarch find native milkweed plants to deposit her eggs on. Also, if you love songbirds in your garden plant native plants! These are a must as they provide the plant food sources for the insects that the birds eat (mainly caterpillars). Native plants are also very versatile and you can find a native plant that is suited for pretty much every condition. In Ontario, we have a wide range of soil conditions from sandy and low nutrient soils, to rich humus soils and heavy clay. Regardless of your soil, light and moisture conditions, you can find a native plant that will thrive under those conditions because that’s what they are adapted to! Above all else, native plants are beautiful and unique and your native plant garden will be working double duty as an important ecosystem!
How do I select native plants?
Coming up with your plant list can be the most daunting task, but also fun! First, always try your best to select plants that are:
- Right for the site: sun/shade, soil conditions, moisture levels
- Right for purpose: rain garden, xeriscaping, heavy traffic etc.
- Right mix: shrubs, perennials, trees, grasses–to provide interest, colour, and texture all season
Looking for inspiration, check out these plant databases:
Where can I buy native plants?
Rules of a ‘Green’ Thumb
- Make your A list and B list: options sell out, aren’t available, or are not good enough quality. Have backups. Be prepared to plant in spring AND fall. Perennials in September, shrubs and tree as late as October (even November for trees)
- Plant more. Better to plant a smaller area more densely then a large garden sparse. This keeps out weeds, makes gaps less visible, and a garden is more likely to be a “success” faster.
- Pick the healthiest plants: new growth and buds, undamaged stems, not a lot of die back and no sign of pests or disease. Ask for a healthy plant.
- When you bring plants home from the nursery, keep them well watered and protected from too much sun or wind, and animals.
- When you are ready to plant, give yourself lots of time to lay things out, move things around. Set up twice, plant once.
- Plant in clumps or swaths instead of sprinkling plants throughout. This makes the garden more cohesive and “readable”.
- Plant deep, but not too deep. Don’t leave the root ball exposed, but also don’t bury the stem too much.
- Water deep and daily for the first two weeks unless it rains. Then less often, but always deeply.
- If mulching, don’t bury plants! Same rules for planting in soil, apply for mulch. Don’t leave plants exposed but don’t bury stems. This is especially important for trees. Mulching trees is good to help retain soil moisture and slowly add nutrients, but too much mulch around trees can damage the bark, and encourages the roots to grow around the stem, instead of down.