I got tired of trying to grow vegetables in my backyard garden space year after year, only to have them wilt with insect infestations, or get some virus that turned the leaves brown. And finally at summer’s end near optimal harvest time, the garden was shaded by 2 p.m., because the maximum altitude of the sun’s arc in the sky in late August was below the tops of the trees.
So I converted my vegetable garden to a wildflower garden, with a wildflower mix from a company that promised lots of native plants from my region. I dispersed the seed generously, watered it faithfully, and waited for weeks while it looked like I was growing nothing but weeds. As an added bonus, I thought a bevy of flowers would attract more butterflies and bees to my backyard (which is what the wildflower packet promised).
But unfortunately, I don’t recognize many of the flowers in this mix, which leads me to wonder if they are really from this region of the country. For example, a few California Poppies have appeared, and I’m sure they are not native to MN.
They are quite pretty, but I’m disappointed that these flowers seem to be non-natives that will not attract the insects that my bird friends depend on during the summer.
I’m going to call this a failed experiment, an important failure because it highlights something that should be an on-going concern of all avid gardeners. And that is this: if we continue to replace the native vegetation in our yards with non-native species, insects that depend on native perennial and annual vegetation will face a food desert. They don’t have the biochemistry to cope with the plant defenses of introduced non-natives, so they produce fewer or no offspring in a garden of non-native plants. And the birds that depend on those insects to feed their own young similarly suffer the consequences of the food desert.
So, plant more native species and keep those insects happy!