In our Wild Yards series, we have been discussing the four needed ingredients (i.e., food source, water source, hiding places and a place to raise babies) for attracting wildlife to your garden and why that might be important for creating a diverse environment. Inevitably, conflict will arise between species, human or otherwise. Gardening with ecosystems and habitat in mind is a lot about managing expectations, tradeoffs and tolerance levels.
If you plant a pollinator garden which includes a diverse array of host plants, guess what? You will have plants with holes in the leaves or entire sections of the plant missing (quiet gasp of horror). If you want a pristine, flawless garden, plant silk flowers from Hobby Lobby and be done with it. That is a truly maintenance free garden! Encouraging wildlife means a change in aesthetic expectations. Wellfield staff attempt to walk a fine line between “world class” display and happily munching insects and mammals. Working with nature is a beauty all its own, as I see it. However, the public or your neighbors have certain expectations (unreasonable or not) that you should not ignore (sometimes at the risk of monetary bereavement).
An important concept in Integrated Pest Management, or wildlife management if you will, is the idea of “thresholds”. Just because you see that darn insect crawling on your favorite rose does not mean you must call in an air strike from on high. There are different tolerance levels, or thresholds, to consider. For growers, there is the economic threshold: how much damage can be tolerated before margin is compromised? For Wellfield, that might be when the damage is greater than the cost of the plant(s), sort of like when a person totals a car. For example, we are very concerned about beavers here, because they can quickly destroy years worth of plants of great value, the backbone of a garden space. There is the more vague “aesthetic” threshold. When does a plant get the uglies? It depends, since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if one is committed to inviting a wild party, one might need to adjust their expectations.
Urban sprawl and development is encroaching more and more on wild space, forcing some species to successfully adapt to the urban/suburban environment. With this dynamic, therefore, it is not surprising there is increasing conflict between these competing interests. When you decide to have a wild party in the yard, sending out the invitation, you might get some unwanted guests. Now what? Before you freak out and call the TruGreen cops, ask yourself, “How important is it really?” How important is their presence compared to your goal? Why are they present? Are they responding to a garden pest as a food source? Are they a true threat? It depends. Maybe the enemy of my enemy is my friend. At Wellfield, we have portions of the Gardens where members of the rodent family live out their lives without a threat from the gardener: happy Peter Rabbit and happy Mr. McGregor. However, in other places, we have a zero tolerance policy. Instead of making eradication of all pesky rodents the goal (usually an impossible goal), we manage the population, keeping it within “acceptable” limits, sort of like how Nature does.
Conflict management of the wild type requires some adjustments on the part of the gardener; learn to pick your battles carefully. The more you structure your garden along ecological lines, valuing diversity, the more free checks and balances nature will provide, easing the workload for those weekend warriors out there.
Josh Steffen, Horticulture and Facilities Manager
Missed our recent installments in the “Wild Yard” series? Click the links below to catch up!
- Pull a Weed, Save a FrogFrogs and toads are key members of any healthy ecosystem. What can you do to help protect and keep them in yours? Continue reading
- May Day and…Boot Camp?Now is a great time to start your vegetable garden! Our Ecological Boot Camp starts May 4th. Continue reading
- Mow High – I mean really high!!!!Originally posted on Wellfield Botanic Gardens:
No, this is not an endorsement for certain recreational activities, but rather a little encouragement as the dog days of summer (which really have nothing to do with man’s best friend, but that’s another story) settle in. I feel so strongly about this topic, I’m even going to reiterate some…
- Wild Yards: Conflict Management the Wild WayWhat do you do when the wildlife in your yard gets too wild? Josh offers some ways to cope. Continue reading
- Wild Yards: Give Me Shelter, Or Give Me Death!Our “Wild Yard” biodiversity series continues; today, Lead Horticulturalist Amy talks about ways to provide shelter for wildlife in your yard, to ensure you are attracting a wide range of wildlife. Continue reading
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