Saskatchewan

Biologist urges Sask. gardeners to plant native species

As spring comes to Saskatchewan and people begin to think about their gardens, one Saskatoon biologist is encouraging green thumbs to think about growing native plants this year. 

'Our wildlife is dependent on the native plants': Chet Neufeld

A marsh marigold. (Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan/Facebook)

As spring comes to Saskatchewan and people begin to think about their gardens, one Saskatoon biologist is encouraging green thumbs to think about growing native plants this year. 

Chet Neufeld, executive director of the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan, said that yards and gardens can help wildlife if there are native plants there. 

"Why not bring a little piece of what used to be there back into your yard?" he said. 

"Our wildlife is dependent on the native plants that they have evolved with."

What to plant

Neufeld recommends plants like blanket flowers and prairie coneflowers. Saskatchewan's native violets do well in the shade, he said.

"[Violets] are good for early season pollinators," he said. 

Neufled recommends the coneflower for people who want to start planting more native plants in their gardens and yards. (Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan/Facebook)

Neufeld said he sees a variety of wildlife in his yard thanks to what he plants and the various other features he has in his yard, like bird feeders and water sources. He said when he cleans out bird nests in the fall, he sees that the nests are lined with some of the grass and seed heads from wildflowers he has planted in his yard. 

"I get way more insect diversity as well," he said.

"The more beneficial insects you have, generally the fewer of the pest species you'll have."

What not to do

Neufeld also gave some guidance as to what not to do when thinking of a more native-centred garden. 

"You don't want to dig something out of the wild, no matter what plant species it is," he said. 

For example, it is illegal to dig up a western red lily and relocate it. Another beautiful plant people might see in the wild is the yellow lady's slipper, but it doesn't do well when displaced. 

Neufeld said that's because it has a special fungal relationship with the soil in which it's grown. Taking it out could kill it. 

Don't transplant these yellow lady's slippers from the wild, Neufeld said. (Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan/Facebook)
A western red lily. (Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan/Facebook)

Where to buy

Neufeld said that it can be challenging to find native species in stores. 

"They're still not widespread but you can do it," he said. 

Neufeld and his colleagues at the Native Plant Society have developed a list of where to find and buy native seed and plants. 

He recommends trying local suppliers first because their stock is more acclimated to Saskatchewan specifically. There are also suppliers in Alberta and Manitoba that can send seed.

"I would go to them only if you can't find a Saskatchewan source."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend

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