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57 Ways To Protect Your Home Environment (and Yourself)
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7. Plant ‘Wild’ In Your Backyard

butterfly weed

They have been called “natural gardens”—patches of prairie scattered along railroad tracks or in old cemeteries, echoes of pioneer days when an inland sea of waving grass and colorful wildflowers covered most of the central United States. If you would like to add a similar touch of the wild to your own backyard, try creating your own private wilderness.

The key is using plants that are native to your area. Native plants are well adapted to your region’s climate and they require less maintenance after they are established. Native plants also provide good cover, nesting sites, and food for certain desirable wildlife.

purple coneflower

In addition, the deep roots of native plants improve the infiltration of water into the soil and reduce the amount of surface water run-off. Native plants are attractive, unique alternatives to traditional landscape design.
a mixture of native grasses and wildflowers

You can use native wildflowers to complement your ornamental plants or rock garden, attract butterflies, or create a shady woodland garden. You can grow them in containers (if space is limited), or you can join the increasing number of people in the Midwest who are replacing their traditional lawns with a backyard prairie—a mixture of native grasses and wildflowers.
personal prairie

To plan your own personal prairie, select a sunny site. Avoid rows, square plantings, or pointed corners. Instead, use curves, gentle turns, and irregular plantings—similar to those found in nature. If your site is large, consider putting a path through the prairie garden.
Pictured is prairie coneflower in yellow, purple coneflower, butterfly weed in orange, and rattlesnake master, which are the tall plants.

Keep in mind that you are planning for three prairies—spring, summer, and fall. Make sure that spring-, summer-, and fall-blooming plants are well represented throughout your prairie garden so there is continuous color throughout the year.
Pictured is a Monarch.

Include enough of each species so they are noticeable when in flower. Fifteen plants in an area 20 feet wide and 100 feet long will probably not provide the desired effect. For best results, space plants about 12 inches apart.
prairie coneflower

Select a mixture of wildflowers and grasses that are well-adapted to your region. Grasses should make up about 60 to 90 percent of the mix, and wildflowers should make up about 10 to 40 percent of the mix. If you hope to attract wildlife, select a diversity of plants.
establishing a backyard prairie

To establish a backyard prairie, remove grass sod before beginning cultivation. If you cannot physically remove the sod, a 1 percent solution of Roundup will kill the grass. (Use caution and follow label directions.)
establishing a backyard prairie

Cultivate with a garden tiller in early spring. Tilling will bring weed seeds to the surface. Let these weed seeds germinate in the spring, then pull the weeds or kill them with herbicide. Competition from weeds can reduce the vigor of or smother your prairie plants.
establishing a backyard prairie

Plant with seeds or transplants. Plants are much easier to work with than seed, and it takes longer to establish a prairie garden using seeds—typically about three years. However, using seeds usually provides better ground cover, which means fewer open areas of weed-prone bare soil.

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