While I had always been ecologically conscious, Shamanic Reiki training drew me into a deeper connection with the land and the Earth’s beings. When I added wildlife rehabilitation into the mix, I became aware of the needs of those beings and how best to help them. With both a spiritual and ecological imperative, I committed to garden for life.
I do not consider myself a gardener in the usual sense. Each spring I put some annuals into containers and seedlings into my two raised vegetable beds. Anything that needs special care or weeding to thrive is out of luck, because by late spring turtle care takes precedence. I gave up long ago on things like foundation plantings or landscaping. Instead, I let the land go wild.
I learned how the introduction of non-native landscape plants and trees has reduced the food and shelter available for wildlife. Most imported cultivars lack fruit or nuts and repel rather than attract bugs. Typically, the dried stalks of perennials are cut back in the fall, shrubs are trimmed, and leaves are raked. I chose to do none of that.
Instead, after researching which are best for the animals here, I add only native trees and shrubs to my land. Nothing gets cut back or shaped. To give our dogs a safe place to run, we fenced in part of our yard, which gets mowed, but infrequently. We only rake leaves that are covering the driveway, as they are slippery when we get light snow. We do very little “yard work” here.
Compared to the manicured lawns and gardens that have become idealized in America, our yard looks messy. The land, however, is teeming with life. Everyone from squirrels to snakes hangs around in the summer. I am seeing a increase in the variety of birds as well.
A couple of days ago we got our first significant snowfall for this winter. When I went outside, I was rewarded for not “cleaning up the yard” last fall with a flock of dark-eyed juncos nibbling on the remains of a clump of native evening primrose. That sight was a blessing and a reminder of why I garden for life.