Worth Trying: Backyard Tips

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Local experts chime in with helpful advice for making our yards more appealing—and more environmentally friendly

GO NATIVE

Planting native plants in your yard is one of the best ways to support the insect life upon which our ecosystems depend.

White oaks and beech trees are two examples of plants that make up the foundation of our ecosystem, providing food and shelter for wildlife and beauty for humans. Believe it or not, white oak trees support 534 species of insect larvae, and beech trees support 126 species.

These are much better performers than a nonnative tree, like a zelkova, which supports near-zero insects, or an invasive Callery pear tree, which actually takes over the space from native plants.

Submitted by Mt. Cuba Center


FALL IS FOR PRUNING!

Fall is a great time to prune your trees as many go dormant in the colder months.  Deciduous species are also often easier to prune as their structure is more visible when there are no leaves on the branches. Proper corrective pruning helps relieve stress on trees and keeps them growing properly.  It is also vital to the overall health of the trees and plants. It’s important to be aware that each tree is different, and pruning at the wrong time or the wrong way can injure trees and plants, making them more susceptible to disease and insect damage.  We also encourage everyone to be especially vigilant in monitoring for active pests and insects that can cause damage to your landscape.  The Spotted Lanternfly has become especially prevalent in our area and is a very invasive insect, decimating many different species of trees and shrubs.  Good luck and stay green!

Submitted by GreenLine Lawn and Landscape, Wilmington


SAVE THE BEES

Wild bees, that is! There are around 200 species of wild bees in Delaware, and they’re essential pollinators for crops and wild plants.

Adding a variety of wildflowers to your garden this fall will ensure that bees always have something to eat. Leaving flower stems up through the winter instead of cutting them back will give them a place to live.

Popular native wildflowers that support bees and other pollinators are tickseed, coneflower, spike gayfeather, native asters and goldenrod.

Submitted by Mt. Cuba Center


PLANT SOME MAGIC MILKWEED!

If you haven’t had the infamous lanternfly on your property yet, you will. Here’s some good news; It appears that the lanternflies are attracted to Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Because the USA is not their natural habitat, they don’t know it is poisonous, so they eat it and it kills them. The poisonous sap also slows them down, so they are much easier to catch and smush. BONUS…common milkweed can also save the Monarch butterfly from extinction.

Submitted by Borsello Landscaping, Hockessin


BE KIND TO BENEFICIAL BUGS

While we tend to focus on insects as pests, most insects are an integral part of a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Beneficial insects provide services such as pollination, pest control and soil fertilization. Additionally, while these beneficials are doing their daily chores, they might also end up providing food for birds and other wildlife.

You can put beneficials to work in your yard by planting a diversity of native plants. Many of the plants that attract beneficials also support butterflies, other pollinators and songbirds.

In the fall, migrating monarch butterflies rely on asters, goldenrods and native sunflowers to fuel their journey south. Foundation plantings can include native grasses such as switchgrass, broomsedge and little bluestem. These offer shelter for insects and food for birds, while groundcovers such as golden Alexanders, pussy willow and golden ragwort also support beneficial insects and songbirds while protecting your trees’ roots.

Submitted by Lori Athey, Habitat Outreach Coordinator, Delaware Nature Society


REFUGES IN A TIME OF CRISIS

When the Covid-19 crisis hit back in March, people rediscovered the wonders of nature at home. Each and every backyard became the perfect setting to enjoy birds, plants, and wildlife.

Natural habitat and bird-houses provided places for birds to raise their young this summer. Our yards were not only a refuge for us in a time of crisis, but beneficial for the birds.

Fall bird watching is exciting as colorful songbirds, soaring raptors, and flitting warblers are passing through our region. Some migrants may not eat bird food, but if you have the right habitat they might find natural seeds, fruits, and insects (Ask your garden center about what plants and trees are best for migrant birds).

There are times when the birds need us, like in the aftermath of a winter storm. There are times when we need the birds. Many of us learned to appreciate birds and nature a lot more this year. Get out, but do it safely.

Submitted by Charles Shattuck, owner Wild Birds Unlimited, Hockessin


NOW IS THE TIME TO PLANT

As we transition into autumn, we all have an opportunity to enjoy working into our gardens again. The heat of summer is passing.

Whether you are vegetable gardening, doing some landscaping or simply planting a tree, fall is a great time to plant. The cooler days and potential for rain makes this a perfect time to plan for your garden’s success.

Mums, pansies, ornamental peppers and cool season veggies respond wonderfully to ground conditions and temperatures this time a year.

We have plenty of selection and can provide specific advice to steer you in the right direction for all your planting needs this season.

Submitted by Rich Hanrahan, general manager Gateway Gardens, Hockessin

So, what do you think? Please comment below.