Hooray for Earth Month! There’s no better way to kick off this time of reflection, celebration, and action than by getting up close and personal with our earth. That’s right–we mean digging in the dirt!
This time of year, most of us have our minds on our yards and gardens. If you’re interested in helping the environment, one of the best places to start is your own outdoor space. Here are some tips to make sure your landscape is helping rather than harming Mother Nature.
Know What You Have
The first step to a sustainable space is to identify the plants you currently have. iNaturalist is a useful (and free) identification tool.
If you find non-native, invasive plant species on your property, you can make a significant impact just by removing them.
Common non-native, invasive species found in our area include:
- Bradford Pear (also known as Callery Pear)
- English Ivy
- Garlic Mustard
For more, see the Virginia Invasive Plant Species List from the Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation.
In the place of non-native and invasive species, plant tree, shrub, and flower species that are native to our area. Native plants are low maintenance; they don’t need the extra inputs, like water and fertilizer, that non-native plants do. Native plants also encourage biodiversity and contribute to healthier soils, combating soil erosion and runoff. Most importantly, native plant species are vital to the health of our ecosystem, as they are directly responsible for the health of our native pollinators, birds, and wildlife—and us.
Plant Virginia Natives recommends that we in Charlottesville and the surrounding counties plant Northern Piedmont Natives. You can download their plant guide at no cost for information about our region’s native plants. You can also find the right native plants for your specific needs (e.g., full sun or shade, deer resistant, attractive to pollinators, etc.) using the Piedmont Native Plant Database.
Once you know what to plant, try to purchase your flora from local nurseries that use organic and sustainable practices. Avoid big box stores for plant purchases, as they typically treat plants with harmful chemicals. Here are some spots where you can shop Northern Piedmont Natives:
You can also purchase native seeds online any time. Here are some sources we recommend:
There will be more opportunities to purchase native plants this month. Mark your calendar for these events:
Saturday, April 15: Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards is hosting a Spring Tree Sale at the Virginia Department of Forestry. They focus on native trees, planting saplings and tending to them until they are mature enough for you to plant. Learn more here.
Saturday, April 22: The Center for Historic Plants, Monticello’s plant nursery, is hosting a Spring Plant Sale. In addition to shopping for native plants, you can view the display gardens, take guided garden tours, and attend scheduled plant expert lectures. See the list of events.
Sunday, April 30: The Jefferson Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society is hosting its Annual Native Plant Sale on Sunday, April 30 at the Ivy Creek Natural Area. They offer more than 50 species of native perennials, trees, shrubs, and wetland plants. Plan to visit!
Stay tuned for the Charlottesville Dogwood Foundation’s Annual Dogwood Tree Sale, which takes place each year as part of the Dogwood Festival. Event date and details have yet to be announced.
Did You Know? Dogwood Refillery got its name from the dogwood, Virginia’s official state tree and state flower. The flowering dogwood is native to our region and represents peace, hope, love, and strength. For us, it illustrates that our mission extends beyond being low-waste to encompass making conscious, sustainable choices in every aspect of life. That includes considering which plants we grow, and choosing native plants.
Other resources include:
Want to Do More?
Here are some additional steps you can take for a healthier yard and a healthier world.
Collect Your Rainwater
Harvesting rainwater can help with landscape irrigation, exterior washing, and more. It can potentially present a cost saving opportunity, as sometimes tax credits are available. Learn more here.
Reduce Your Lawn
Skip the mulching and mowing in favor of a healthier, wilder outdoor space. It’ll save you time and energy, and it’ll be much better for the natural habitat. Read about that here.
Make Your Own Compost
Save your scraps from the landfill and start composting! Find tips for how to start composting here. If you don’t have the space to compost at home but still want to do your part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, check out Black Bear Composting. There’s also a food waste composting program at the McIntire Recycling Center and Ivy Material Utilization Center (MUC). The City Market is another compost drop-off location during its regular season (April through October). You can learn about those options here.
Laura Drummond, a sustainability-focused freelance writer based in Charlottesville, is our blog contributor.