Sustainable Planting

On Monday I said that it was just about time to get out and start plant shopping. Our weather here in Connecticut can be finicky–we’ve had snow as late as May 15–but most people use Mother’s Day as a safe planting date. I usually plant by the “oak leaves” adage: if the oak leaves are the size of little mouse’s ears, I know we’ve had our last frost and I will do things like put my house plants outside (at least everything that’s not really tender). I never plant the vegetable garden until Memorial Day. Why borrow trouble?

But I certainly shop, and if I am able to tell what needs to be replaced after another season of drought (because lately, it’s not cold that’s killing my plants, it’s drought!), I will look for something that might survive both drought and cold. It will be native, and it will probably be something that is going to have to establish itself without any extra “anything” from me: no extra water, and definitely no extra fertilizer or pesticides.

And that, my friends, is the idea-at least to me–of sustainable planting–at least in my region. Your idea is going to be something entirely different. That’s why the word “sustainable” is a little “squirrelly”–it will have different meanings for different folks. Does that mean that the word doesn’t have value? Absolutely not!

The idea that I could take my same criteria and transplant it to the south or southwest is ludicrous. No extra water? Not going to happen!

And I have a friend in California that insists that she cannot battle aphids without pesticides. I don’t know. I don’t live there and I don’t have her long growing season. My aphids are relatively benign. But if I didn’t have a really long cold period to kill them, maybe I couldn’t either.

So your “sustainable” isn’t going to be my “sustainable,” just like your invasive plants aren’t the same as mine and your native plants aren’t the same as my native plants. Does that mean “sustainable” doesn’t have any value?  Only if “invasive” and “native” don’t have value–and I am going to leave those battles for another day!

But for our pollinators, we need to do what we can to plant sustainably. Here are some resources from the Million Pollinator Challenge site.

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