Sometimes I’ll encounter a homeowner that decides they have too much manicured yard and wants to let some of it go wild. A little more nature in the yard can be great. The good news is that wild-growing native plants increase habitat for songbirds, pollinators, and more. The bad news is if you just stop mowing and weeding, many of the plants that start to grow will not be natives.
Invasive trees, shrubs and vines such as ailanthus, privet, and English ivy can easily choke out the native plants and produce poor habitat once they’ve taken over. They can spread quickly and dominate more of your yard than you bargained for.
If you want to let some of your yard go wild, that’s great. You just need to put some effort in to do it right. Here are a few rules that can help you out:
1) When a new plant is growing in your new wild space, if you don’t know what it is, call it a weed and get rid of it. This may seem harsh, but chances are most of the plants growing from seed are plants that you don’t want. Go online and learn some plant identification, and you’ll be able to ID plants coming up that you want in your space.
2) Check out the nurseries. Many of the local nurseries can point you to native plants that will enhance your wild space. It can be fun and inexpensive to let things grow on their own, but it can also be slow.
3) Don’t try to save every native you find. If you discover a new white oak sprouting up, chances are there will be others as well. Go ahead and transplant a few seedlings, but you will run out of space if you try to save them all.
Watching a seedling that was planted by wind, squirrel or bird grow into a tree is a slow, rewarding process. Go ahead and let a corner of your yard go wild. You just need to put a little effort into it.