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!
- A Thanksgiving message from Eric Garton, Robert and Peggy Weed Executive Director at Wellfield Botanic Gardens:From all of us at Wellfield, we wish you a Thanksgiving of peace, beauty, and gratitude for all that we are fortunate to have. Our appreciation abounds for our Volunteers, Donors, Members, Sponsors, and countless community members who have grown Wellfield to where we are today and whose vision guides us toward even greater impact … Continue reading
- We’re all about the lights!Our horticulture staff is busy, busy, busy these days – you wouldn’t think so, given the weather, but trust us, they are! So, we’ve given them the next couple weeks off from blogging about plants and all things horticulture. But we have something coming up at Wellfield – you may have heard of it? It’s … Continue reading
- What’s New for 2022 – New Plant VarietiesIt’s always fun looking ahead to what plants are trending, to get a different look for your landscape. Today, Mary shares some of her favorite ideas. Continue reading
- Cool Plants, Cool TemperaturesYou may think our growing zone would not support year-round succulents or herbs, but Cody has other opinions. Continue reading
- Even More Magnificent MushroomsPatrick dives deeper into the world of mushrooms and explores John Hopkins psilocybin research; what the current findings may imply for the future of mental health. Continue reading
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