Trying Natives & Edibles


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Hi All,

I've lived in different places around the country and gardened a bit in most of them. But I consider myself maybe an advanced-beginner, and something of a lazy gardener. :). Back in 2014 I finally got hitched, and in 2017 my DH & I purchased a house together in Northwest Indiana, very close to Chicago Illinois.

The house is on a good-sized corner lot with 4 maples, a blue spruce, a crabapple tree, and some grass, and the rest of the "landscaping" was either nonexistent or a mess. And come to find out the spruce and at least 1 of the maples are diseased beyond redemption and will need to come down. :cry:

It's a work in progress, but my goal is to eventually transform this to a property that is both beautiful and useful: native plants for the birds & bees & butterflies, edibles for us. Have had modest successes in the veggie department & am expecting our first blueberries this year. The native plantings have been slower to establish, but I persevere. Zone 5b, very sandy soil.

Wishing all of you joy in your gardening. Peace!
 
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JBtheExplorer

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What types of native plants are you going with? Prairie species? Woodland species? Shrubs? Trees?
Are you going with a habitat-style garden like a pocket prairie, or just using the plants in the traditional gardening sense?
Always curious about what other native gardeners are doing.

Consider looking into seeding some fast-growing, short-lived species this winter. Partridge Pea is a native annual that will reseed heavily. Very easy to keep around. Hoary Vervain is a short-lived perennial that will bloom first-year and also self-seed enough to easily keep it around. Be sure to plant some milkweed, too, if you don't already! Our area (I live relatively near you, in SE Wisconsin) is extremely important for the Monarch butterflies.

Good luck!
 
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JB, thanks for responding! I saw a few of your other postings and suspect that you are the person here I need to learn the most from.

Okay, so far I have 2 main areas for natives. The main one is a really sunny space next to the driveway. The milkweeds are crawling with aphids, the lupines tell me they want less sun. It's a work in progress but I'm aiming for "somewhat orderly with prairie flowers look." Prairie Moon sent a partridge pea packet with some other stuff I ordered, I will try to remember to put those out there in the late fall so they can do their thing next year. Welcome your advice on those aphids!

The SECOND area is the entire front, north-facing wall of my house. We had a landscaper install a wall this year, and the bed between the wall and the house is filled with a good compost type mix he brought. It gets mostly shade, and I'm going for a woodland understory type of environment. I put in some wild geraniums & columbines with the hopes they will get established and bloom next spring, ferns, a couple of wild "ginger" and then 3 later-blooming types of flowers that Prairie Moon says will do well in shade: tall bellflower, zig-zag goldenrod, and big-leaf aster. I have more space than plants there right now, by a LOT. Since it turns out the blue spruce in front of our house has to go, part of that is not going to be AS deeply shaded as I thought. I am hoping the new plantings get well established & I plan to add some more stuff. If it works, then maybe a small mister, and presto, I'll have a full-blown habitat for the little critters that like shade.

There's sort of a "throwaway" bed area in the back where I planted a packet of wildflower seeds to appease my husband, who wanted to plant the packet. It did nothing last year but after overwintering all those seeds it has been a riot of colors and surprises this year. Using a packet mix just makes it hard to tell the weeds from the flowers, but I let it do its thing.

Long-term, I'd like to add a native hazelnut shrub somewhere as it fits BOTH of my criteria for plants. But I'd probably add a non-native hazelnut as well so they could cross-pollinate, and then let the birds have the native one and net the bigger European ones for me. :)

Even LONGER-term, I want to get rid of the whole front lawn (and after the first season or so of mowing, my husband forgot he ever opposed the idea!) but I know I can only manage it a bit at a time.

So, what are you growing? Other than milkweeds, of course. Any particular tree or shrub you think I should consider for the shade area? I've been thinking "understory" but now realize there will be enough light for a "midstory" in spots. The trouble is, it needs to be fairly manageable-looking because it's the front of the house.
 

JBtheExplorer

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Welcome your advice on those aphids!

So, what are you growing? Other than milkweeds, of course. Any particular tree or shrub you think I should consider for the shade area? I've been thinking "understory" but now realize there will be enough light for a "midstory" in spots. The trouble is, it needs to be fairly manageable-looking because it's the front of the house.

Aphids - My advice is to leave them. I've had aphids on many plants and I always let nature be. After all, my purpose for planting natives was to help wildlife. If you look up "The Common Milkweed" on Youtube, they recently posted a video talking about aphids on their Cup Plants. I tend to share a similar mindset about many of the things they talk about. Other than plant diseases (and House Sparrows), I don't really have any enemies in the garden. Everything that visits is welcome, even the pesky rabbits.

I wouldn't know where to start with what I'm growing. I've got at least 40 or 50 species at this point, not including trees. Mostly native, but a few good exceptions. I did post my list that I use to keep track over on twitter recently. It's mostly up to date.





My experience with shrubs is extremely limited, and I don't grow any for shady areas. I've heard Pagoda Dogwood is a good shrub for shade or part shade. Whether or not it's manageable-looking, I don't really know.


I'm glad you already know about Prairie Moon Nursery, because their website is a great tool for finding the perfect plants for the perfect conditions. When I first started native gardening, I used their website to familiarize myself with all of the native options out there. I've even used it to I.D. some species I've seen in the wild.
 
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Browsed your "Showcases" -- wonderful! I'm a true beginner with the Natives (just a bit more experience with veg) and am learning from my mistakes. I need to add MORE to the wildflower area, I was leaving room for plants to fill in but instead they are too far apart and my new Prairie Blazing Stars are falling over. Coreopsis and other lower more rounded stuff (the partridge peas you recommend maybe) should help with that. Maybe more grasses, Prairie Dropseed or something. The hoary vervain you suggest will work also. It's a small area but it needs more.

In addition to Prairie Moon, I get plants in the annual sale at Gibson Woods, a small but amazing nature preserve tucked into the city about a mile from my house. gw-wildones.org.

May I recommend one more for you, for your woodland area? It's finicky, but if you can... Lupine, for the Karner Blues. The Karner Blue is an endangered butterfly that relies on Lupines like monarchs need milkweeds -- it's the only food source for the caterpillars. Karner Blues were extirpated from Indiana a few years before I got here, when the 2012 heat bubble killed all of the lupine in the Indiana Dunes area. The lupines have returned to the Dunes (I got pics of beautiful stands while hiking there this spring!) and they are reintroducing the butterflies, so I'm hopeful! But the main surviving Karner Blue populations are in Wisconsin and Michigan. https://www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/insects/kbb/kbb_fact.html
 

JBtheExplorer

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May I recommend one more for you, for your woodland area? It's finicky, but if you can... Lupine, for the Karner Blues. The Karner Blue is an endangered butterfly that relies on Lupines like monarchs need milkweeds -- it's the only food source for the caterpillars.

I'd love to plant Wild Lupine for the Karner Blue. Unfortunately, there isn't a known population within 30 miles of me, and our main populations in Wisconsin are more than 100 miles away. I was actually in Karner Blue territory a couple weeks ago in the Scuppernong Prairie. A few lupines were still in bloom.
IMG_8034 copy.jpg




Karners won't travel far from where their populations exists. I believe I read somewhere that they'll travel less than a mile away. So I'd be of no help to them here. I used to have lupine for the bumble bees, but I wasn't 100% sure it was lupinus perennis, so I decided to remove it. I may eventually add it again someday just for the bumble bees. We do have a related specie of butterfly here, the very common Spring Azure. I've got a few dogwoods in my yard for them.



new Prairie Blazing Stars are falling over. Coreopsis and other lower more rounded stuff (the partridge peas you recommend maybe) should help with that. Maybe more grasses, Prairie Dropseed or something. The hoary vervain you suggest will work also. It's a small area but it needs more.

Plants in gardens often grow taller than they would in the wild for various reasons (Most commonly: less competition from other plants, too much care, too much shade). It can definitely help to let things grow in together to help support each other. I used to space plants evenly, but gave up with that. Having spaces just led to more weeds trying to fill in. Letting everything grow together without spacing really cut back on the amount of weeds I see each year. Other than Boxelder tree saplings, I haven't pulled a single weed from my original garden section in probably three years!

Hoarvy Vervain is a stronger plant that can definitely help support others. It's a specie that looks good even before it blooms. Has a nice structure, and looks good when planted in groups of two or three to really thicken it up. It can almost look shrub-like from a distance when you've got a few two-year old plants next to each other.

IMG_9573 copy.jpg
 
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I do like how that hoary vervain looks! That's always good to know -- what does this look like WITHOUT flowers? It's handsome in a nice sizeable clumb like that! Maybe I'll get some seeds out there this fall and see what happens?
 

zigs

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Welcome to the forum :)
 
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My experience with shrubs is extremely limited, and I don't grow any for shady areas. I've heard Pagoda Dogwood is a good shrub for shade or part shade. Whether or not it's manageable-looking, I don't really know.
Oh it is nice to see others from the midwest around here. Anyway...

@CitySky I am now a little ways north-east of you and recently ended 13 years of living a little ways north-west of you.

Yes, pagoda dogwood was really cool and good looking. Try to get your hands on one.

The pagoda dogwood showed the same flower style and look as my redtwig dogwood. It was about 15' tall with clearly delineated layers of branches out from a 4" diameter trunk. I had it wedged between a garage to the west, keosa dogwood to the east, and 3 tall spruces to the south. This was growing in Rockford IL.

The redtwig dogwood I had else where had major problems with dogwood sawfly but the pagoda didn't
 
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Thank you so much for that info Mr. Yan! Sorry I haven't checked back to see this until now, I was *just* browsing plants online :) and in fact considering this dogwood in addition to a couple of potential ninebarks. This is really helpful information!
 
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