This summer I did something really scary: I covered my front, back, and side lawns around my house with cardboard ...and two enormous dump trucks of wood chips. I was done spending hours every day weeding the grass out of my beds. When spring came, my garden, which was previously beautiful with grassy paths and flowers beds, now looked horrendously brown, scruffy, and bleak. I regretted the mulching and worried that I might have if I just devalued my house. But I was soon relieved to hear the humming of honey and bumble bees in the Anise Hyssop, to see not one, but FOUR Monarch caterpillars on the milkweed, and to see goldfinches eating sunflower seeds.
I didn't know where to begin, but the little voice said, "just grab a rake." As I raked, I could see that it was the larger pieces of wood chips that made the garden look so ugly. Now, the garden is starting to look amazing again, and I can't wait to get up in the morning with my cup of tea to see what's new and different!
Now that I am switching over to more native and bird-friendly plants, I love my garden even more. More varieties of beetles, bee-mimics, bees, butterflies, and moths are showing up than before, and that makes me want to go outside more often and stay outside even longer. Being outside longer means I see more going on, and more of the inter-relationships of everything.... For example, today I noticed two red beetles (photo #1) mating on the milkweed leaf and ants all over the milkweed flowers (photos #2) while I tried to work at my outdoor "office" (photo #3). Was all of this going on before? Maybe, but it seems to be more intense and frequent. Have the changes in my garden really made a difference to the birds and pollinators? I kept a journal, photographed each new insect I saw, and will report back when I have more to say!