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Spring cleaning the outdoors
Have you done your spring cleaning...indoors... yet? With spring holidays out of the way, many of you have. And are now turning your attention to your yards and gardens.
So...let's talk about spring cleaning your outdoors living space.
Conservation organizations are urging Americans to check their yards and gardens for plants that can escape cultivation and cause damage to the natural environment and the national economy.
Not all these plants are considered "weeds". Some are sold as highly desirable landscaping plants. So a bit of research before you buy new plants would be in order...and a bit of research about old stand-bys might be in order, as well. Old standbys such as ivy, willow trees, and bermuda grass can be acceptible in some locations...and wreck havoc in others!
And there are additional plants such as purple loosestrife, kudzu, giant salvinia, multiflora rose and tree of heaven which are often used in horticulture, landscaping and erosion control, and can be found in backyards and business lots across the country.
When these plants escape from yards, they can invade and alter entire ecosystems, out-competing native plants for light, water and nutrients.
"Keeping invasive plants out of America's backyards helps the environment and the economy," said Steve McCormick, president of The Nature Conservancy. "Taking the time to remove invasive plants and replace them with non-invasive varieties is a great example of bringing new energy to the old adage: think globally, act locally."
Once free from the natural checks and balances -- such as nutrient levels, freezes, and native animals that dine and prune at the same time -- the alien invaders are able to proliferate and harm native species. When they overrun native plants, invasive plants also displace the native animals that rely on the local native plants for food and shelter.
With intentional and unintentional assistance from people, these problematic plants are infecting natural areas across the United States. Some unintentional actions include carrying seeds on car tires and shoes...as well as spreading seeds in compost, commercial soil and mulches.
"Nursery growers, landscape designers and others who make their career in horticulture have become increasingly concerned with the issue of invasive plants," said Wayne Mezitt, vice president of the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA), and chair of that organization's Invasive Species Task Force.
...so ask your nursery growers about which plants are causing a problem in your local area. Maybe you can encourage them to post pictures of these invasive plants and offer easy ways to control them.
And if you are planning a landscaping project...do you homework. Balance the practical need for "easy" with the long term impact on the environment. "Consumers look for plants that establish quickly, withstand environmental stresses and generally grow without much care. Unfortunately, these characteristics can also be the features that make plants invasive."
Plants that escape from yards and gardens are an example of the larger threat that invasive plants and animals pose to the environment and the economy, McCormick said.
Invasive species are contributing to the decline of 46 percent of the species listed as threatened or endangered in the United States.
The cost to the national economy has been estimated as high as $137 billion per year and rising, due to losses in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, as well as the cost of clearing waterways clogged with invasive weeds and mussels, and fighting fires fueled by invasive grasses and shrubs.
You can make a difference THIS year...and your impact will be multiplied year after year after year. So dig out a few invasive plants...spruce up your yard, and encourage your neighbors to do the same. You CAN make a real difference in this environmental issue that reaches into every neighborhood!
For more articles about CONSERVATION & GARDENINGWhen is a plant a weed?
Controlling Slugs and Snails
California Heritage Gardens
Walk Gently with the Earth
Weather and Temperature are Linked to Landscaping