The longer I have lived in a suburb, the more I envy what I had growing up. We had 3 to 5 acres on two home sites when I was young. When I was five, we lived in southern Indiana with horses, dogs, and other creepy crawly creatures. Weeds grew up around our backyard where butterflies and bees shared our acreage. We had great smells of growth and wild flowers every spring. We moved north in Indiana and still had 3 acres, a garden, a creek behind the house and cows grazing in a field next door.
Now I live in a suburb of San Antonio, Texas with home owners association rules. No tall weed plants, grass not to exceed 8 inches of lawn growth on the street, etc. While these rules have a purpose to keep neighbors poor lawn care and junk collecting practices to a minimum, it also limits mother nature in her efforts to keep our world a fertile place to live.
Butterflies must have a place to begin as caterpillars. They need milkweed and other wild plantings that we call weeds to thrive. Bees also need to have corners of our world to thrive so they can produce honey, and fertilize other plants so we can have those wonderful spring smells in the air given off by flowers and shrubs.
We often forget in our efforts to conform nature to our neatest controlled neighborhood standards, we are effecting the air we breathe. Without all the creepy crawly, flittering winged and other pollen carrying animals of our world, we would soon die in a dead brown world of no flowers and few trees.
Bee and butterfly populations are decreasing and as a result, the good weeds and budding plants that afford us clean air are also decreasing. What is left are scrub plants that need little encouragement or nutrients to survive. They put out less O2 and do little to clean our air of filthy carbons we don’t need.
We are quick to cut off anything in our yards that are not grass stalks, and spray chemicals to kill it all except grass. Now I must admit that I hate thistles in my yard. I love walking barefoot in a lush green yard (and that is not likely in Texas rough land), but those thistles really hurt! I have sprayed them directly over the middle with weed kill and my husband digs them up with a weed puller and stacks them in the trashcan.
What I didn’t know is that thistles when left alone long enough grow a stalk and flower. The flower part have small seeds, and the birds love them. Horses, deer, and cows also love thistles at the time of it’s flowering. So, what to do?
If I am ever in another home with land not limited by a home owners association, I plan on mapping out an area just for wildlife. I will have milkweed, sunflowers, and other delectables for birds, butterflies and wildlife. I won’t cut it down with every mowing just to have a manicured yard. I will have a variety of trees, from small to large, with flowering and non-flowering trees and shrubs. I will provide an area for rain water collection, and an area for composting. I will have chickens and a garden with fresh foods to harvest. My dream will not happen in Texas I am sure, as everything I have attempted to grow here withers and dies in the summer heat and pouring spring rains. It takes a special person or groups of gardeners and the right area to grow things in the sandy soils here, and I am not she. I long for the easier more fertile freindly ground in Indiana.
For now, I will have to wait on a back yard haven to help the ecology and my spirit. I suppose letting some weeds in my back yard may help a little, even giving those dang thistles a little break! All I can do for now is keep my home owners association happy by following their front yard rules…and pushing nature to the country where it can survive.