I used to despise gardening. I hated every part of the process: pulling weeds, planting, watering, pulling more weeds. None of it appealed to me. The flowers that came out of it were nice to look at, but that never outweighed the work I didn’t enjoy. When my partner and I bought our house, I went down a lawn care rabbit hole because that’s what you do as a new homeowner in an American suburb. I still didn’t enjoy the work, but it seemed like something I was supposed to do. Using herbicides bothered me because of the obvious environmental harm, but I wanted to have a nice lawn (again, new homeowner in an American suburb) and that’s what you do to have a nice lawn.
Then I started reading about gardening on Reddit. I started off in r/gardening, then r/NativePlantGardening, then in the more radical r/NoLawns. Already on the fence about the whole lawn thing, it was incredible how quickly my mindset shifted. I read Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, which is one of the books recommended all over the place in gardening groups. The general idea is insects are dependent on the plants they evolved with and can’t generally use plants that originated in other parts of the world for food. Since plants and insects make up the base of the food chain and the ornamental plant trade has led to the introduction of invasive species that take over native habitats, this presents a massive problem. Gardening with natives provides habitat and food for insects to support the local ecosystem.
After reading that book and browsing the various subreddits, I wanted to include plants native to Pennsylvania in our yard. With the help of Redbud Native Plant Nursery in Media, PA, we have purple coneflower, black-eyed susan, a few species of bee balm, black chokeberry, creeping phlox, sweet pepperbush, and a few others. The overarching theme in Tallamy’s book is if you plant it they will come. Since cutting out the herbicides and planting some natives, we see so many more bees and other insects, butterflies, and even a few hummingbirds in our yard even though we’ve only converted some of our yard to garden space. Most of it is still lawn.
Gardening feels different now. With climate change seeming insurmountable, especially when individual action feels pointless, it’s comforting finding something I can do for the planet myself. Any piece of land converted to native garden space supports biodiversity, so my individual action is immediately impactful. For the future, I want to convert more of the yard to native gardens. Gardening now is something I do with a purpose, enjoying the process knowing I’m working on something that matters.