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Native Plant Landscaping
Click here to view full size picture There are many different ways to create a native plant landscape. The following are just a few key concepts to keep in mind before and during your landscaping process. Be creative and most of all have FUN!
Site Assessment, Planning, and Design
Before you begin, you should decide whether you are going to incorporate the native plants into an already existing landscaped area or start your native plant garden completely from scratch. If time is limited, you may want to start slowly by simply adding native plants into your existing flower beds. For those of you who are more ambitious, you will need to assess your properties existing conditions, and match the native species to the current site conditions. You may want to take a naturalistic approach for your new native plant landscape. A naturalistic landscape is done by imitating plant associations that would be found occurring naturally in your region.
Examine the area you are going to be landscaping and identify existing native species you will want to keep. If the area is heavily weedy you might want to rescue the few existing natives and get rid of the rest. Next, decide what natives you would like to see within your native plant landscape. Look at other natural landscapes in your area to determine what might grow well on your property. Familiarize yourself with your area’s most dominant species. There are three key characteristics to keep in mind when designing your native plant landscape; height, color, and bloom time. This will allow there to be color all season long and the ability to observe all the natives in your landscape.
Soil Preparation
If you have selected plants appropriate for your areas region, they should grow well once established. Assess the current soil conditions first. It may need soil improvements if the soil has been disturbed in the past. If the soil is relatively new and weedy species are minimal, disturbing the soil can create more problems by bringing weed seeds to the surface.

Properly prepared soil absorbs and holds water more efficiently, and it also allows proper drainage. You may want to add organic matter to your soil if it has been depleted of most of its nutrients or add sand/gravel to loosen it. Begin preparing your beds two to three months in advance to allow time for the soil to settle. Adding a top layer of mulch to your soil will help to control weeds. If you are dealing with a site that has a lot of weeds it may take a year to kill all of them. If you have a less weedy site, then you might want to seed or plant between the existing vegetation. For less weedy sites mow the existing vegetation as short as possible and rake to create bare spots to allow the seeds to have good soil contact.

If you are going to start from scratch and remove all existing vegetation then a repeated cycle of herbicide, light tilling, then watering will need to be used. This cycle may need to be repeated as many times as it takes to clear the site and remove all existing weed seeds, which lie dormant in the soil. Using Roundup might be preferred because of its non-residual properties. Roundup does not continue its herbicidal activity and you can plant as soon as you are sure that the weeds are under control. Roundup will not affect seed germination of the newly planted seeds only those plants that have been treated initially.
Fall is ultimately the best time to plant native species, although spring plantings see good results also. Some times the seed needs to go through and cooling period (cold stratification) to break its dormancy, while others have very hard seed coats which need to be broken or scratched (scarified) before they can germinate. Fall provides the conditions necessary to break seed dormancy while spring gives the seed the nutrients it needs to germinate. Ideally, native seeds would be planted following its natural schedule.
When seeding, seeds must always have good contact with the soil. To seed, use a hand carried mechanical seeder or simply hand broadcast the seeds into the planned area. After seeds are on the soil, raking or tamping the seeds into the soil will ensure good soil contact. Using plant plugs and seeds together will give you faster results. You must water immediately after seeding and planting and do so for a good week to two weeks until you see germination. You may want to continue seeding and planting the second year to fill in bare spots or increase species diversity.
Your new landscape may take several years to become fully established. The first two to three weeks after planting is the most critical time to water. After your landscape is established then little or no maintenance will be required, depending on the look you are trying to accomplish. Applying fertilizer could chemically damage native plants instead of helping them grow. During the establishment phase you will want to continue weeding and planting to crowd out the undesirable species. You may want to do some research about pruning tips for each species you plant. All plants respond differently to different treatments.
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