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Native plant gardening

Native gardening is gardening using plants native to the region where the gardener lives. This kind of gardening offers numerous advantages to gardeners, but it requires some research and planning.

A natural spring landscape
Photo by Elaine C. Shigley

Because native gardening is adapted to the local climate and soil, it requires less water, natural insecticides and few nutrients. Native gardens encourage biological diversity and safeguard of our national legacy of indigenous plants. Native gardens are fine, colorful and showy.

In the Chicago area, native plants have deep root systems and the capacity to store large amounts of water, which prevents soil erosion. They reduce air pollution by removing carbon from the atmosphere. They produce seeds, nectar and pollen which feed native wildlife.

Research and planning go hand-in-hand with native gardening. Chicago gardeners should research the trees, shrubs, flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables native to this area. Libraries and online sources have this information readily available. For a native garden, choose your plants from lists in these sources.

To gain visual understanding and information, Chicago gardeners should visit nature centers and botanical gardens. Ask questions, and collect data. Don’t forget to take photos of native gardens that are pleasing to you.

Cook County and surrounding counties have local regulations regarding native gardens. Check weed ordinances and fire regulations. Then, your native garden will be in compliance with the law.

When you choose your site, examine its sun, soil and drainage features. You should know what plants are already growing there. Decide how much of the site will be devoted to native plants. It’s perfectly okay to build your native garden in phases. Next, it’s time to purchase seeds and plants. Then, plant your garden and enjoy it.

Go native. It’s fun, interesting and beneficial gardening.

Live long and well—garden.

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