How Your Gardening Choices Make A Difference

Hi, it’s Alex! Today I’m outside, because I want to tell
you a little bit about my yard, and I’m going to show it to you. And hopefully we can learn something about
ecology in the process. I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and what you see in my yard and in the woods
behind my home is actually very typical of what is going
on on a very large scale not just in the mid-Atlantic, but all throughout
the U.S. due to our land use patterns. And there’s some ecological damage that I
want to show you and I want to talk about how we can do something
about it. Let’s turn this around. These are the woods behind my house. It’s a relatively small stretch of woods. And, for people who don’t know much about
ecology, they might say: “Oh, you know, woods in winter.” “What’s the big deal?” Well, if you know a little bit more about
ecology, you can look more deeply at these woods, and you see that there are actually a lot
of very unhealthy things about these woods. Let’s zoom in on what’s going on on the forest
floor. You see a lot of leaf litter. But look at this. This is English ivy. If you look around, you’ll see that these
entire woods are covered with English ivy. Here’s another plant right here. This plant here is Japanese honeysuckle. Neither of these plants are native to the
region. What about this tree? There are many of these
trees. This tree is actually a Norway maple. So, you might ask: “How did these plants get here?” Well, all of these plants have been pretty
widely planted, for various reasons. English ivy is widely planted as a ground
cover. Norway maple is widely planted as a street
tree. Now, what’s the problem with these plants? None of these plants are native to this area, so there’s not much that eats them. Normally, when you have plants growing, they will support insects and birds and all
sorts of things that eat the plant itself and that eat the
things that eat the plant. But when you have non-native plants, they don’t support as much of the food web. They also, as you see in my yard, they create somewhat of a monoculture. So you have this whole forest floor is completely
with ivy, and it’s begun to climb up some of the trees. This chokes out other plants. There are also some other problems, like the Japanese honeysuckle, it’s a kind of pleasant smelling flower, but it has a way of supporting and attracting
deer. Deer tend to like to eat it. Deer can become overpopulated in suburban
areas, and then they eat a lot of the native plants
too. So there are a lot of problems associated
with these non-native plants. One of the things that I work to do is to
restore biodiversity, so I’ve actually been cutting down and removing as many of the non-native plants in these
woods as possible, but it’s a lot of work. I think sometimes people don’t realize that when you plant things in your garden, it has an impact on the environment. These woods behind my house are populated
with plants that were almost all planted as gardening
plants. In many cases, they reproduce by seeds. I’ve seen ivy come up from seed. I’ve seen Norway maple come up from seed. I’ve seen Japanese honeysuckle come up from
seed. So it’s quite possible that none of those
plants actually were planted in these woods behind
my home, but because they were so widely planted in
the neighborhood, that was what was there when they were allowed
to grow up wild. So, that’s what colonized them, that’s what
there is. If, on the other hand, people planted a diversity
of native plants, then there would be a greater diversity of
native plants in the seeds, the seeds that are wind-distributed, seeds that are distributed by birds. So, if we had these woods, let me turn it
around again, if we had woods like this, these woods could grow up with native plants. And actually I have an example of it. It’s died down right now, but this plant here
is a native plant, it is white snakeroot, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that
this plant was here. This plant is widely planted as a gardening
or landscape plant. So, because we’re surrounded by suburbs, you can sort of see, there’s not all that
much greenspace, it’s mostly buildings. Because we’re surrounded by these things, what is planted in the gardens is what is available to colonize these small
wild areas. So, what you plant in your gardens can make
a really big difference. I’d like to call on everyone to, whenever you make a decision about gardening
and landscaping, to try to use as many locally native plants
as possible, and to avoid non-native plants like English
ivy or Norway maple here in the United States. This involves a little bit of work. You need to learn how to identify things. You might need to find some people more knowledgeable. But I think it’s well worth it, because if everyone did this sort of small
thing, it would have the effect of protecting and
restoring the environment without doing anything else. All you need to do is plant these things in
your garden, and then they’re going to seed out into the
wild and help protect and restore the ecosystem. And I think that’s something that I would
really love to see. So, if you subscribe to my channel, I hope to talk more about this in the future. Please comment if you have questions, if you have other topics you want to hear
me expand on. Thank you!


  1. This is something I wish everyone in our society could learn: how small wild areas surrounded by developed land typically grow up with mostly plants that seed in from surrounding gardens. So what you grow in your garden can have a HUGE impact on biodiversity. Check out the woods behind my home as an example. #garden   #biodiversity   #gardening  

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