Keep America Beautiful will be hosting the first ever National Planting Day on Sept. 8! Why was this day created? National Planting Day is a great way to celebrate the value and power of native species for local landscapes.
Native plants are essential in restoring ecological balance to our environment. Native plants also are a wonderful way to create greener and more beautiful communities. With a national focus on Sept. 8 and activities happening throughout the fall, national nonprofit Keep America Beautiful and its affiliates — like our Keep Liberty Beautiful — are encouraging Americans to learn more about their native plants and to plant native species in their communities.
First, we need to define what a native plant is. According to caes.uga.edu, native plants can be those that grow naturally in a certain area without any help from humans. Other definitions include a plant that was present in a certain area prior to European settlement, or a plant that has inhabited an area for thousands of years. The Federal Register, however, defines native plants as those that are “naturally occurring, either presently or historically, in any ecosystem of the United States.” We are going with this last definition.
Why plant natives? According to kab.org, native species are losing ground to suburbanization, fragmented habitats, ornamental plants and invasive species. However, natives are important to the food chain. They are critical to attracting specialized pollinators and insects, which in turn provide food for birds and, ultimately, many more animals up the food chain. Natives also provide habitat for wildlife. Natives are hardy, low-maintenance and require less water than other ornamentals.
So natives really are good for the environment and for local wildlife. But, according to plantnative.org, naturescaping can save you money. Naturescaping with natives requires less maintenance and less water. Natives are much more drought tolerant. It will save you time — less yardwork! Using natives also is healthier for you and for others. Traditional yards and gardens need a variety of chemicals — fertilizers and pesticides that can be detrimental to your health. Naturescaping enhances the livability of the place you live in so it will foster more relaxation and recreation. It preserves bio-diversity — birds, fish, etc. — and may increase property values.
If I have your interest now and you want to learn more about native plants for our areas, there are some fantastic online resources that can help you choose the right native species for your project. Some online sites to consider include the aforementioned plantnative.org — which features a state-by-state directory of native species, specialized nurseries and local organizations — as well as abnativeplants.com. The University of Georgia extension service also has several excellent online publications. We have several books as well in our offices as resources. As we revamp our website this week, we will list a variety of resources that are available on native species for Coastal Georgia.
To celebrate National Planting Day, we will have Native Plant Giveaway Days from 9-noon or until supplies last Friday, Sept. 14, at Farmers Natural Foods and from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. or until supplies last Saturday, Sept. 15, at our quarterly Recycle It! Fair at the Liberty County Health Department. Supplies will be first-come, first-served. We also will have additional information about native species.
So, this year, consider going native — using native plants, that is!