Use native plants for a low-maintenance yard

The Examiner

With the current state of affairs, many folks are at home now more than ever before. More people are gardening. There are quite a few things you can do to care and maintain your personal kingdoms while living GREEN.

Lynn Youngblood

Largely due to lack of knowledge or lack of information, residential homeowners use 10 times the amount of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers per acre as farmers. When it rains, water runs down the street and into the storm drain, or soaks through the lawn, eventually reaching the water table and other underground water systems. All of this water becomes contaminated with the chemicals that have been heavily applied to lawns and gardens.

There are some simple things you can do to lessen the need for chemicals. These GREEN gardening tips will brighten the space within your castle walls and really make your life easier.

Landscape with native plants, those found naturally occurring in Missouri and Kansas before settlers arrived. Native plants thrive without the use of pesticides or herbicides; they also attract desirable wildlife such as songbirds, butterflies and other pollinators.

Many local nurseries now carry the “Grow Native” label. Look for these when choosing your flowers, ornamental grasses, shrubs and trees.

Native plants are also perennials; they come back year after year. You don’t have to keep planting natives, saving you time and money. Natives are naturally pest- and disease-resistant and require less water.

Using mulch helps conserve water and reduce weeds. There are several choices for mulch. You can make your own by using newspaper with or without grass clippings on top. This is free, and works great. The newspaper slowly decomposes while the clippings hold it down. Be careful not to get the clippings too thick, or they will get stinky. (If you plant natives, you don’t need mulch.)

Use companion plantings. Especially great for vegetables, plant specific flowers and other plants next to vegetables to keep pests away. There are many books and pamphlets out now with loads of information on native plants and what their requirements are in terms of sun exposure, watering, and soil preference. Check some of them out. September is a great month for fall plantings, so you are not too late to enhance your landscape.

Have fun and be creative with your lawn and garden this year. Putting some of these methods in place will give you more time to relax and enjoy the outdoors and reduce the need to add more chemicals to the local ecosystem! GREEN up that thumb of yours!

Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at

Check out these websites:

• For more information on Grow Native:

• For more information and a chart on companion planting:


• If you are a Missouri resident, you can receive Missouri Conservationist magazine from the Missouri Department of Conservation at no charge. The September 2020 issue has a special insert on the department’s George O. White State Forest Nursery and its seedling program. They have beautiful photographs of the native seedling stock that they offer as shrubs, vines, and trees. Order now and they ship to your door in the spring for a nominal price.