Learn how to grow that garden that you’ve always thought about starting with our Home Spring Gardening 101! Farmer Amanda will walk you through the necessary steps to produce a fruitful crop.
Flowering Ohio Native Plants to Beautify Your Yard
It’s springtime! The birds are singing and the black-eyed Susans are blooming! Wait, you don’t have any blacked-eyed Susans? You don’t have Ohio spiderwort or wild petunias either? Well, that’s okay. Your garden looks lovely. But, if you live in Ohio, makes sure to include some Ohio native plants, which include many gorgeous flowers native to our lovely region.
Wherever you live, planting native flowers and other vegetation benefits the local ecosystem in many ways. Tulips and lavender may look and smell great in your yard but these non-native plants do little to benefit local wildlife. On the other hand, flowers like milkweed and butterfly weed provide food and shelter for indigenous pollinators.
Native flowers are great for planting whether you’ve been doing it for years or you’re new to gardening. Continue reading to learn how Ohio native plants can beautify your yard, benefitting you and the local wildlife.
Low Maintenance, Less Water
Native Ohio plants and flowers require little maintenance. Native plants are low maintenance because they have already adapted to the soil type in this area. This means that they grow more quickly and easily because they do not need to adapt to the soil’s pH. Plus, the soil provides all the nutrients they need. Better Homes and Gardens explains that native plants cover more ground to quickly choke out weeds.
Native plants are adapted for the climate in Ohio, too. So once you introduce the flowers to your garden you don’t have to keep buying new plants year after year. Flowers like butterfly weed and gray goldenrod don’t need to be replaced year after year because they can survive the winter.
For that same reason, native plants require less watering. Native Ohio plants can withstand droughts and rainy seasons. They grow well in this area and can survive just about any weather mother nature throws at us. By watering flowers less in the garden, you not only save money but help conserve our most precious resource, water.
Weeds vs. Plants
Plants like honeysuckle may seem commonplace but that’s because they were introduced to the U.S. in the 1800’s. What many people don’t know is that these plants were brought here from Japan as an ornamental plant. Upkeep on these plants can be difficult. So many homeowners just them left to their own devices. As a result, they have taken over and stolen the resources of our native plants. These plants might look and smell pretty but in reality, they are invasive weeds.
Some gardeners overlook the huge difference between weeds and native plants. Weeds, as Hunker explains, “invade the habitats of other plants, causing damage and death… Invasive weeds appear in habitats that already belong to other plants, growing so well and so quickly that they overtake or otherwise compromise the existing ecosystem.” So some flowers we sometimes consider weeds, such as milkweed and butterfly weed, don’t fit the definition.
Native Ohio plants make great shelter and food supply for many native bugs and animals. By weeding them out landowners and commercial farmers actually damage the natural landscape and certain species of wildlife.
Did you know that the caterpillar of a monarch butterfly feeds solely on milkweed? This flowering plant grows all over the U.S. As monarchs migrate, they lay their eggs on milkweed leaves and then the caterpillars feed on them. To prevent their extinction organizations like The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden are creating programs to educate Ohioans on how milkweed can benefit our local environment and possibly prevent the extinction of this beautiful butterfly.
So before you weed those pesky flowers, research whether they’re really hurting or helping.
Ohio pollinators need native flora. Pollinators include far more than just bees and butterflies. Many other species help pollinate flowers and plants. Audubon states that pollinators also include hummingbirds, bats, and beetles. Different pollinators “specialize” in different native plants. Some of these–take bats, for example–keep away unwanted pests like biting insects. When you help them, they help you in turn.
You have many choices for flowers, trees, and shrubs to add to your garden this year. Sometimes they can be hard to find in big box stores because they are not popular among gardeners. You can, however, find them in many local greenhouses. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden even advises many area nurseries on what to stock. For a list of native Ohio plants, check out The Ohio Department of Natural Resources to find the best plants for your garden.
If you are considering adding flowering plants to your yard or garden, consider those that are native to this region. Not only will you add beautiful diversity to your garden but you will help the local ecosystem, which can always use some TLC.
PHOTO: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain
Give Your Fresh Veggies the Star Treatment
It’s an enriching experience to watch how the time and energy invested in seeds results in delicious, home-grown vegetables. Whether you use them as side dishes, snacks, or the main components of a plant-based diet, fresh veggies from a CSA (community supported agriculture) garden are delightful. They have a richer taste than many grocery store selections and inspire recipes that take full advantage of their nutrients and flavor.
The Benefits of Farm-to-Table Vegetables
It’s more than taste that makes farm-to-table vegetables more appealing than supermarket ones. You know everything about how the ground where it’s grown is treated, and how the plants have been cared for. The vegetables sprout naturally because they’re not grown too quickly or at inopportune times, or harvested before full maturation, to accommodate sales demands. Ever notice certain spring and summertime fruits and vegetables still available in the winter? Grocery stores import produce from out of the country, which also means higher costs and more potential for exposure to toxins while in transit. It also upsets seasonal cycles, part of the reason why we crave comfort foods in the colder months, and lighter meals when it’s warm.
There’s also a stronger personal tie between farmers and consumers when vegetables are grown through a CSA. You’re supporting local commerce, can receive direct advice about cooking ingredients, and eliminate packaging costs. You may find unusual or imperfect shapes because there’s been no interference to create flawless produce, or discover interesting varieties that you never knew of beforehand. Additionally, you’re encouraged to try your own backyard gardening, which has influenced how homeowners design the ultimate outdoor living space, and deepens neighbor connections.
Appreciate Seasonal Produce
Successful harvests and availability may vary according to the region, temperatures, precipitation, maintenance, and wildlife getting at the vegetables. However, asparagus, morels, spinach, and rhubarb should be cropping up now (mid-spring) in Ohio. May and June should see the following:
- Mustard greens
- Sweet peppers
Cooking Tips that Maximize the Flavor of Fresh Veggies
The nutrients in fresh vegetables are sensitive and start to decrease once the food is cut, peeled, or even washed. So prepare and eat them as soon as possible afterward. Fat and citrus boost nutritional absorption. So sautée fresh veggies in healthy oils (coconut, avocado, sesame, and olive), or in butter, or add juice and/or zest to dishes. Keep cuts to similar sizes for even cooking. You might try steaming or roasting them for maximum flavor. In addition to making salads and snack trays, there are endless ways to incorporate fresh veggies, including:
- Soups, curries, and stews
- Salsas, sauces, pesto, and chimichurri
- Dips and hummus
- Burrito, taco, and enchilada fillings
- Juices and smoothies
- Omelettes and quiches
- Stuffings, or stuffed into another vegetable
- Rice, quinoa, couscous, and other grains
- Desserts such as carrot cake and zucchini bread
Nothing needs to go waste when preparing farm-to-table veggies. Turn peels into seasoned crisps, and add carrot and radish tops to stir-fries, sauces, or pesto. Shred stalks into slaws, blend into dips, or freeze for later use in making stock. Add cooking water to soups and mashed potatoes, or use for natural food dyes.
Ideas for Surplus Vegetables
Many freshly picked vegetables will last about 1-2 weeks, depending upon storage methods, indoor temperatures, and exposure to sunlight. If properly tended to, carrots and radishes may last a few months. If you cannot store excess vegetables in the basement or other ideal environment, consider:
- Donating vegetables to fire departments, homeless shelters, and food banks (check rules first)
- Giving them to family, friends, or co-workers
- Offering them for free to the public
- Canning and pickling
- Adding pet-friendly veggies to meals and treats
- Using decaying vegetables for composting (then use the compost to grow more!)
Fresh Veggies Year-Round through Home and Community Gardening
Backyard gardens and CSAs give you the means to enjoy fresh veggies that are natural to the region, and grow during the seasons they are best adapted for. It’s rewarding, and yields scrumptious vegetables all year long!
PHOTO: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain