Being aware of our impact on our landscapes both wild and cultivated has never been more important to protecting the health of plants, insects and animals. Beginning with our garden we can implement some simple practices that will enhance its overall ecological health.
After a day of walking or hiking your footwear could have picked up seeds of invasive plants. Cleaning them off before you walk in your own landscape helps to minimize the transfer of invasives such as bush honeysuckle, Japanese knotweed and Oriental Bittersweet to name a few.
It should go without saying that the practice of carry in and carry out extends to not carrying out what you did not take in, plants, fungi, soil, insects, etc. This protects the landscape AND your garden from potential unwanted destructive effects, bringing home invasive plants, unwanted pathogens or perhaps…the invasive earthworm, called Asian jumping worm, crazy worm or snake worm. The name describes their movement, fast, snakelike and “jumpy.” Since 1937 they have increasingly devastated landscapes because of their voracious appetite, eating the organic layer of the forest and soil leaving behind large amounts of coffee ground like castings. https://www.recorder.com/Invasive-snake-worm-problems-make-their-presence-felt-in-region-16902871 This depletes the organic component needed by trees and shown to be involved in the decline of sugar maples. https://phys.org/news/2017-08-invasive-earthworms-root-sugar-maple.html
Bringing in home dug plants, compost or mulch poses a risk for bringing in invasive plants, seeds and Asian worm. You are safer using your own compost and fall and leaves as mulch to minimize your risk of introducing these to your garden. This also increases organic matter in the garden, healthy soil microbes and helps preserve moisture during dry and hot weather.
Adding native plants for nectar and larval food sources for butterflies and insects assures the presence of diverse insects and birds. Plants such as milkweed for monarchs, dill and fennel for swallowtails and wild blue lupines for the rare Karner Blue butterfly are a few examples of larval foods. https://www.ecobeneficial.com/
Finally, not using pesticides improves the health of all insects, animals, you and the environment! The of internet and your local Master Gardener association offer further resources for ecological gardening information.
Happy gardening and happy hiking!
Marianne Zimberg, Master Gardener
Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association
email hotline: firstname.lastname@example.org
telephone hotline: (413) 298-5355