NTMN May Chapter Meeting Announcements

The Announcements

View the full set of May announcements by clicking here. There are currently so many chapter activities, the verbal meeting announcements can only cover a portion. The calendar lists even more opportunities to get involved. Please note major activities coming up: Native Plants and Prairies Day May 7; Recovering America’s Wildlife Act TMN Tuesday May 11; Big Chapter Project at Kiest Park Conservation Area May 14. Opportunities and contacts, websites, and other details are available in the announcements.

Highlights of the Meeting

Recognition – Congratulations to Judy Meagher on reaching her 4,000-hour Volunteer Service Milestone. Outstanding work, Judy!

Transform Your Yard with Native Plants – From Blah to Beautiful

Many thanks to Lorelei Stierlen for a very engaging presentation on using native plants in our local landscapes. Combining her background as a soil scientist and experience transforming her two yards from lawns to native habitats, Lor took us through landscaping fundamentals, from planning through execution.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished – Lao Tzu Setting the background, Lor led with lessons on patience and perseverance, that we can’t rush nature. The work needs to be seen as a marathon, a process of years. Another facet of persevering is recognizing that in habitat restoration, the edges and blank spaces continue to be vulnerable to invasion. Bunnies also require forbearance as they will dine on some of the new offerings. A last need for persistence is in relating to neighbors, knowing that not all will be fans.

Mindset/Planning – This transformation should make us smile, be a source of joy. If it’s not, Lor advises we take a look at why. Before starting work, the process deserves some planning, identifying our dreams and goals, asking questions of ourselves and others. Planning will also account for budget and limitations on the property: drainage, erosion, soil type, hardpan, existing plantings and features.

Another part of planning is to focus on outcomes: interested in birds? –pollinators? –seating and walkways? –harvesting seed for special plants? While Lor has over 120(!) Collin County specific native plants in her landscape, she cautions that harvesting from the wild is off limits.

Lor then walked us through her two projects, how she planned, installed a small area, and gradually expanded over years, taking time to see what comes back and to see how different plants perform.

Implementing the plan – Her projects followed these next steps: establish borders then remove the grass. Among options for removing a Bermuda lawn are using a sod cutter then a shovel, or smothering, or solarizing. The last two may require months and repeated treatment. While not a fan of herbicides, Lor advised that for some plants (Johnson grass, scabiosa) glyphosate may be the best path. After clearing, a light cover of compost can enrich the soil; a layer of mulch can help control erosion.

Once the area is cleared, and preferably time has passed to see what may return, it’s time to plant. Lor recounted her current battle with nutsedge, where waiting to plant would have saved immense effort. Seeding is typically best in fall. If one misses fall, cold stratifying may be an option, depending on the species. Spring and fall are best for installing plants.

After the plants are in, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a different kind of landscape. Some things will move, some will reproduce vigorously. Avoid overwatering as many native plants don’t like wet feet. Lor only mows her yard once a year, in February. She suggests building the soil by adding compost to the surface, especially composted manure in the fall. For springtime, she suggests dry molasses as a special treat for soil biota.

In closing, Lor stressed the importance of sharing your experience, getting out the word about native plants. Local sustainability groups, garden clubs, and WaterWise tours can provide opportunities to open our gardens to others.

Going deeper: The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center provides how-to guides and one of the most extensive resources on Texas native plants.  Audubon provides a zip-code based plant list focused on planting for birds.
Texas Smartscape offers a very detailed interactive plant list and landscape design tools.
AgriLife’s Top 100 Plants for North Texas charts native (mostly) plants for our area.
If you have further questions, Lor can be reached by email.

When the recording of this meeting is available, it will be posted here.

Thanks to our guests and members for participating in this month’s meeting. I hope all feel welcome at NTMN.

Take care,
Scott Hudson
North Texas Master Naturalist


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