What's Happening Under your Native Plants?
What do you think of when someone brings up the topic of a native plant restoration? What often comes to mind are typically thoughts of gorgeous flowers blooming in a wide array of colors; abundant quantities of pollinators fluttering around the blooms, a hawk cruising by looking for the chance to swoop down and grab a furry prey item, or lush beautifully textured native grasses that sway in the summer winds.
However, seldom do we take time to think about the "dirt"
(don't use this word in front of a soil scientist), the soil, the substrate, the earth that the plants bury their roots into. Native restorations, especially prairie restorations, do wonders in creating healthy and fertile soils that teem with microbial life.
Native plants supply organic matter to the soil, which is essentially plant parts in various forms of decomposition - either leaf material or root tissue that is sloughed off. Plants add a host of nutrients like carbon and nitrogen that start building rich soil with great soil structure. This soil structure prevents nutrient and water runoff, controls erosion, and helps to improve our surrounding water bodies by stopping harmful pollutants from entering our beloved lakes and river systems.
This building of organic matter over the years will support a wide variety of micro-organisms that call your restoration soils home. These beneficial microscopic soil organisms will start to appear and help to repair and improve the soils along with the plants. Organisms such as fungi, beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizae will start creating a mutually beneficial relationship with your native plants. They will help aerate the soil and break down organic material for plant use and actually help to ward off plant diseases.
The natural processes that are at work under your restoration are similar to what is happening in your garden compost pile. A gardener will often add layers of material such as twigs, straw, leaves and green manures like grass clippings and clover, along with kitchen scraps to fuel the decomposition fire. Similarly, your native plants from season to season create organic material and start to naturally layer this material in your landscape. This material slowly decomposes, like what happens in your compost pile. The decomposition process is not as fast as your compost pile, but over several years, will start creating the very same product in the end: Healthy and Rich Soils!!!
So next time you are enjoying your restoration take some
time to examine a handful of your landscape's precious soil and witness the array of life that it supports. It can be a slow process, taking years to repair and generate healthy soils. But in the long run, your restoration and your native plants will thrive - producing even more beautiful colors and essential pollinator and wildlife habitat.
Don't have a restoration? We can help in every step of the process from designing and installing to maintaining your new beautiful landscape. Just give us a call we would love to answer any questions you may have.