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The Benefits of Native Plants

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

It makes sense to add native plants to your garden. Because they were ‘home grown' over millions of years natives can be quite well suited to our conditions, in some cases thriving with a minimum of fuss. This saves you time on watering and maintenance, so you can relax and enjoy your outdoor surroundings. They also hold the soil well on slopes.

Planting natives helps preserve our natural heritage – more than 80 percent of New Zealand's plant species are found nowhere else. Urban expansion and intensified rural land use is crowding out our wetlands and bush. Every little bit of native planting helps – it’s worth doing, even if you’ve got only a tiny back yard – try flowering natives like hebe and phormium (flax)

Native birds and insects such as moths like native plants too. Besides looking and sounding beautiful bellbird, tui and silvereye lend a helpful beak and claw by eating up insect pests and helping pollinate your plants. If you do find that your garden is a popular place for native birds, ensure you don’t put them at risk. Your pet can be a predator so try putting a bell on your cat’s collar, keep your cat in at night and ensure it’s being well fed by you, so that hunting is not essential.

Weeds

It’s important to keep on top of exotic weeds such as bramble, ivy, tradescantia and aluminium plant – they can spread quickly and crowd out native plants, taking their sunshine, water and soil nutrients. Your regional council and Department of Conservation offices have useful free illustrated guides available to the 'wicked' weeds that spread easily into bush areas, such as passion fruit, buddleia, old man's beard and Chilean flame creeper. They can advise on attractive plants to choose instead of the invasive ones.

Using mulch on your garden is a good way of keeping weeds down. Otherwise, it’s a case of pulling gumboots on, getting into the garden and pulling them right out, including the roots. It’s easiest to do following rain, when the soil is soft.

Weeds with tough roots should not be put into compost or they will live on – it’s best to dry them out before composting or liquid compost them in a closed drum of water. Send weeds to landfill only if none of these alternatives are convenient.

 
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