While most other blogs that are participating in Blog Action Day post about ways you can help the environment by lessening your carbon footprint I'd like to write about something a little different. Most of the time when I'm selecting plants for my garden I don't really think about the negative effect I could be having on the environment.
This spring I came to the realization that as a gardener my responsibilities are greater than the average person. In a previous post titled "The Orange Daylily" I blogged about the mistake I made when I used a fertilizer for my garden that attaches to the watering hose. This spring I blogged a lot about weeds that are common in the Chicago area and while researching the plants for those posts I was struck by how many "weeds" were introduced into the wild by well meaning gardeners and plant lovers. Shortly after I wrote the post above about the Orange Daylily I was taking out the trash and noticed something blooming near the trashcans for the house next door.
My neighbor had planted that particular annual last year and some seeds must have found a way out of the bed she had them in. This plant was growing out a small crack in the ground where the seed overwintered and germinated on its own. If you look closely at the picture above you'll notice that it is competing for the same soil, light and water as two other weeds. Once I got over the "isn't that cute," feeling of seeing a pretty flower growing in an alley I realized just how much of a problem we as gardeners can create for the native plants and animals around us if we're not careful.
A search for "native plants" on a news outlet like YahooNews will return numerous stories of communities battling invasive plants or of habitat being lost as native plants are choked out by introduced plants. The little annual above on its own will not take over but think of how many of these plants are sold in garden centers and even at grocery stores every year. How many of those flowers were allowed to go to seed or how many were just tossed into garbage cans where the seeds can be spread by birds and animals that visit landfills.
This simple little flower has made me much more aware of what I'm planting in my own garden. Right now that I'm young it isn't a problem to keep up with a potential weed like a petunia that reseeds, but someday I won't be able to keep something like that in check. One day I probably won't live and garden in the spot that I garden in now. If I don't take precautions and keep out potentially invasive plants from my garden I could be creating a major headache for the next person that lives in this house.
So on this day when you're thinking about your carbon footprint and your greenhouse emissions take a moment to reflect on your garden and think about the legacy your garden will leave after you're gone. Will your garden be something that lives in harmony with the natural world around it or will your garden be something that creates a problem for the local flora and fauna?