I just finished reading “Bringing Nature Home” by Douglas W. Tallamy. It is a sobering description of our wild spaces and the plant and animal species that populate them. Biodiversity is an intricate part of our well being. We need the plants for our own survival just as our animal friends do. But Tallamy confronted me with grim statistics. He estimates that we have converted between 32 and 40 million acres to suburban lawns in this country (Milesi et al. 2005) — as much as 62,500 square miles! That is an area more than eight times the size of New Jersey dedicated to alien grasses. Take four million miles of public roads, add parking lots and driveways, and you have 43,480 square miles of blacktop all over the lower 48 states (Elvidge et al. 2004). So the consequences for biodiversity are staggering. You see it in the many small mammals that succumb everyday on our suburban roads. In addition, we have removed food and nesting sites needed for most species to survive.
We, as humans have an innate love of nature. It sustains us. As gardeners, we can shape our own spaces — our own little biospheres– to provide ideal conditions for species to survive. I felt the need to spring into action by increasing the size of my planting beds and creating “rivers” of vegetation. I concentrated on native trees, shrubs and perennials. I offered water sources and areas for composting. Most important of all, I followed organic practices in the garden that bar pesticides or chemical fertilizers. All these measures facilitate a healthy biodiversity that promotes a wildlife habitat within each of our gardens.
“Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw” Henry David Thoreau.