Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day or An Oklahoman Garden

So I know in the past for Earth Day I've posted environmental activism poems that I've written, but this year, perhaps a little something different. Long-winded, I'm sure, but different.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about how we treat the bits of Earth that we live on, whether it be an apartment or a house.

As I listed in my previous post, Rick and I have been doing a fair bit of gardening this year. When we moved in we had a total of 27 bushes around our house and yard. None of these bushes were native to Oklahoma and the most that they gave back (because not all of them were pretty) were a place for mocking birds to live in. And live in they did, chasing off any other song birds or finches, even a scissor-tail or two that we've seen stop by. Shortly after moving in, I made it my mission to remove these bushes and work on making our yard more beautiful.

Right after we moved in, I (with the help of my Dad and also Rick) had torn out 5 bushes in the front yard and planted an annual garden with a bulb garden that followed that winter. I posted a lot of pictures of some of the flowers from that garden on this blog for 'Nature Mondays'.

While I was pregnant I planted a little bit underneath a pecan tree in the back yard but didn't really get to do much gardening. I just planned. and planned. and planned.

This winter we tore out 5 more bushes (and one crepe myrtle died in the backyard under mysterious circumstances) so that I could plant a hardy perennial garden and also so Rick could grow some vegetables.

It had occurred to me that it was more eco-conscious to plant perennials that would come back as opposed to pour money year after year on the same plants that I wanted. After all, it takes energy and clean water to grow the plants in greenhouses for people to take home and enjoy, even if but briefly. I know it seems common-sense to see it that way, but it took me a bit to come around to seeing it that way. It's so easy to get caught up in how beautiful a thing is without seeing the footprint it left behind. It's arguable that it becomes offset as the plant creates more oxygen and whatnot, but doesn't a perennial, too?

That lead me to my next idea. It was no longer enough that my yard be pretty, but I wanted it to give back, too. Unfortunately, I had already blown my gardening budget for the year, so I set about planning a garden for next year. I wanted to plant an Oklahoman garden.

I have three requirements for plants that will go in this garden:
1. It must be a plant that is native to Oklahoma
2. It must feed native species of butterfly or their larva
3. It must feed native bird species such as the ruby-throated hummingbird that migrates through here every year.

I also wanted to do this in the most economical way possible. This week we are preparing our vermicompost bin for worms that will be coming to us from our friends, Tommy and Larissa, who also vermicompost. I am also trading seeds on for seeds that are native Oklahoman plants. I will be winter-sowing most of these, and then planting them in the spring next year.

So far I have:
Two different forms of prairie grass that feed Oklahoman birds in the winter, several types of coneflowers which our butterflies love, some digitalis or foxglove which has some forms also native here, and seeds for our Eastern Redbud tree which is our state tree.

I am hoping that next year my perennial garden will be taking off and that I will have divisions to trade or to give away (I have an aunt that trades perennials, too) and that I'll be able to encourage some of our native bird and butterfly species to come to our backyard. We'll also have hopefully eliminated the mocking-bird harboring bushes from our yard so that more different kinds of birds feel more welcome here. We've already noticed a difference just from what we've removed this year.

In addition, baby c will be nearly two by the time that the next planting season comes around, and it's important to me that as she 'helps' me out in the yard that I'm able to explain to her what different plants are and what they do. I know she may not remember as she gets older, but these are the seeds that we sow and hope grow to bear fruit.

Please take some time out today to think about how what you do effects even the small plot of Earth that you've staked as yours and to remember that you can work with it to make it do so much more.

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