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Responsible Gardening For Blog Action Day

Petunia, Annual with Weeds, Blog Action DayWhile 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?


  1. that's the big question isn't it? i'm glad you wrote this thoughtful little post. it's never really about natives vs nonnatives or invasives, it's all about how you consider your place in an (i hope) infinite chain.

  2. MBT - thanks for this thought provoking post for blog action day. This topic is new to me, man I still have so much to learn. I still don't fully understand the problem that the invasive plants cause to the planet but I'll definately be researching this more.

  3. Unfortunately its a problem right round the world for gardeners everywhere. Even here downunder we have the same problems with self seeding gardening plants escaping the normal gardens into native areas. Plants like petunias, impatiens, alyssiums, etc.

    Though the self sown one's which keep to a garden make excellent additions and new seasons growers for the garden beds.

  4. Good intentions and invasive plants seem to go hand in hand.

    Travel through the southern US and you will see millions of acres of Kudzu vine covering trees, buildings and anything else they can get a toehold on.

    My husband's grandmas old home is totally hidden under the vine.

  5. Great post! I'm trying to fight the invasive exotics with native weeds (Asarum canadense & Stylophorum diphyllum) I plant next to the fence that separates my garden from property owned by a homeowner's association (can you say "Garlic Mustard"?).

  6. HI MBT,

    A very thought provoking post for Blog Action Day. As Ohiomom said kudzu , a Japanese native, has consumed the South due to the good intentions of someone who planted it to stop erosion.

    The garden you leave behind is indeed a legacy that speaks of the gardener's care and knowledge.

  7. Excellent and insightful post. I wish more folks would consider what goes in their garden and the ripple effect "one little plant" x millions of people can have.

    There are books written about native plantings in local regions/states that should be one of the first books a beginning gardener should buy!

    Thanks for addressing this underreported and distressing topic.

  8. You've identified a problem that plagues us all in different climatic zones. Invasive plants can become problems so quickly. Creeping bellflower comes to mind - it has been sold in nurseries and people plant it in their gardens, not realising its propensity to spread rapidly and detrimentally.

    This was a great issue to address on Blog Action Day ...

  9. Hello everyone.

    Hope you all had a good Blog Action Day. I'll stop by your blogs and see how many of you participated or what's new on your blogs.



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