I see good things, and I see bad things. Standing back and looking at the Big Picture, I see, frankly, someone's overgrown, weedy, unkempt and unruly front yard. It looks like a foreclosure house in need of a lawn mower. It looks worse than the lawns on Desperate Landscapes.
But... I look more closely, knowing what the lot looked like last fall, Bermuda grass and other non-natives spreading everywhere, bare ground and rocks, construction debris, a mess. At least now the mess looks, shall we say, a bit more natural?
So yes, there are weeds, but what is a weed? More importantly, what is the new balance of native vs. non-native? That was our long-term goal, of course. Replace the alien with the native. Create an ecosystem that is more like what the native insects, birds and other critters might consider more natural and better suited to their needs. In that respect I think we've already done pretty well.
The non-native weeds we can deal with, although it might be a long process. There is plantain, which loves the crappy sandy rock-filled "soil." There is dock, loaded with seeds just waiting to drop and sprout a new generation of docklets. There are a few clumps Queen Ann's Lace, pretty but non-native. We didn't plant it, but it didn't have to travel far to get here (it grows quite healthily in the area on the other side of the pavers). There is wild lettuce gone to seed, as well as other plants that I can't readily identify but which I'm quite sure we don't want. Oh, and there is ragweed, a plant that I've become very familiar with in my struggles with allergies and asthma! I know ragweed. I hate ragweed. We need to pull out all ragweed before it goes to seed.
The good news is that the "soil" here is so crappy that these weeds are quite easy to pull out by the roots. Roots can't go very far down here. SO I yank up as much ragweed as I can fit into the black plastic bag that I brought. It doesn't take long, and I only scratch the surface. I'm hoping that we can get the Tuesday morning garden group started soon before all this stuff goes to seed.
But it's not all bad news. Most of the area is now covered in a nice variety of warm-season grasses, some red, some green, some brown, the seeds of which were donated by the USDA and planted by Brad, Barry, Joe and I last October. I don't know all of them, but together they make a nice, meadow-y effect, and will look even better when the cold weather turns them all to a golden brown.
And there are blooming native flowers. Purple Ironweed; swamp milkweed; native hibiscus; orange butterfly weed; asters just now beginning to bloom; a few patches of mountain mint; partridge pea (a native, but I'm worried that it is so aggressive that it might become a problem if we can't control it somehow); seaside goldenrod, looking healthy and ready to bloom in another month or so; other native goldenrod that I can't identify yet; a clump or two of yarrow; some black-eyed susans.
And along with all these native flowers I see... native critters enjoying them! A gray catbird has apparently made a nest under the ramp, flying in and out through the lattice holes, feeding on insects in our meadow. Butterflies on every plant. Yellow butterflies, black butterflies, white butterflies, blue butterflies. I start a list. Great Spangled Fritillaries. Gray Hairstreaks. Pearl Crescents. Lovely butterflies with lovely names! My list is getting longer.
Pollinators everywhere. Jewel-like leafhoppers on the mountain mint; bumblebees and honey bees and wasps and flies and beetles, all enjoying the fruits of our labors. And dragonflies, Saltmarsh Dragonlets, small delicate little predators working the field.
I see something darting through the grass at my feet. A baby bunny. He seems quite happy to have all this vegetation to hide him from hawks and coyotes. You're welcome, our pleasure. Just don't eat too much of the good stuff, OK?
Here's my list for the day. No birds on my list today, too much other stuff going on!
-sliver spotted skipper
-great spangled fritillary