Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Oct. 19, 2021

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Energy Adviser: Native plants easy to grow in fall

The Columbian
Published:

Fall is great time of year to beautify your property. The soil is warm enough, but not too hot, for your plants to put down roots without too much additional stress. On top of that, the seasonal rains that scour the Pacific Northwest are like manna from heaven for a new garden.

If you plan to add some greenery or some colorful flowers to your property, look for ones that are native to our region. You’ll be glad you did.

“New plants always need some extra water to get established; but once they take root, native plants typically don’t require any additional water beyond what nature provides,” said Brad Mead, Invasive Species Coordinator at Clark Public Utilities. “That’s a great thing about gardening in the fall — the skies can just about take care of it for you.”

Not only are native plants low-maintenance, but they come in a surprising array of shapes, sizes, colors and seasonal characteristics that will keep your property looking great all year long. In addition to greater curb appeal, you’ll provide much-needed food and refuge for local wildlife. Native birds and pollinators are often adapted to depend on the characteristics of native plants — such as relying on their leaves and flowers for food or depending on their limbs for habitat.

If you have a slope on your property, the right native plants can stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. Native plants near streams can also improve water quality and habitat for migratory fish and other aquatic animals by holding stream banks in place and eventually providing water-cooling, life sustaining shade on sunny days.

Countless plant species call the Pacific Northwest home and all thrive or barely survive in specific conditions.

In order to grow a successful, low-maintenance garden, you’ll probably have to do a little homework first. Educate yourself on your property’s characteristics, then find plants that’ll do well in them. Is your site surrounded by tall trees and thus heavily shaded or are the skies wide open? Do you have lots of sand in your soil or lots of clay? Does the ground retain a lot of moisture or does it drain right out? These types of observations and more will be important when it comes to picking your plants.

“My advice: look for plants that thrive in your conditions; don’t fall in love with a certain plant and just try to make it work out. At best, you’ll have to put in a lot of extra care to keep it alive,” Mead said.

To learn about the plants of our region and to get a sense of which ones are suited for your property, visit the Washington Native Plant Society. Their website, www.wnps.org, is a great resource for gardeners of all skill levels.

Their website contains plant directories, helpful information for growing different types of gardens, descriptions of invasive plants and much more. You’ll also be able to view a list of native plant nurseries and seed sources in your area.

“As great as they are, native plants are usually only available at locally owned nurseries because they’re a little too specialized for the big box retailers to carry,” Mead said. “The plants they sell are typically grown in massive nurseries in regions far away, which is why they’re often in full bloom when our growing season is just beginning.”


Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98688.

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