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Building a Backyard Ecosystem

Aug 1, 2021 | Gardens, Lawns

If you are like the majority of U.S. homeowners, you have probably never heard of the phrase “Backyard Ecosystem” before. Not to worry! It is really not as fancy as it sounds. Backyard ecosystems are exactly that – ecosystems in your backyard. If you think back to what an ecosystem is, you will remember that an ecosystem comprises the various plants, organisms, and nonliving components that come together to create a large relationship of give and take. The sum of all of the parts of the ecosystem comes together to create beautiful, thriving landscaping. But what makes up this backyard ecosystem?

What Comprises a Backyard Ecosystem?

First, let’s consider the living! Plants are what we most commonly think of when we think of an ecosystem. From the trees to the flowers, all plants are a major part of an ecosystem. Plants provide a number of key features for an ecosystem, including shade from the sun, food for animals and insects, and reproductive sites for insects. When you are deciding what plants you want in your backyard ecosystem, you must consider how the plant will interact with the rest of the ecosystem. Perhaps you want your yard to be shadier, in which case you may consider trees that are far-reaching and provide more shade; however, you must then consider the animals and insects that the tree may attract. Would you be okay with those animals and plants being in your yard? Perhaps you were at your local landscaping store and you fell in love with hostas. You want to plant them in your yard, but before you do, you have to keep in mind that hostas attract bees. We, at Johnson’s Landscaping, can help you make those kinds of decisions.

When we think of plants, we also think of soil! Soil makes up a large part of an ecosystem and has a direct or indirect impact on every other part of the ecosystem. Soil creates a kind of basepoint for the various cycles within an ecosystem. While there is no set “start” or “stop” point in an ecosystem, due to the nature of cycles, soil is involved in nutrient distribution, the breakdown of organic material, and the maintaining of chemical balances. Soil directly affects plants and plant growth because soil provides nutrients to plants. But, soil provides much more than that to an ecosystem. Soil is a host for microorganism growth and development and is instrumental in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Different geographic areas have different types of soil, so it is important to keep in mind the kind of soil that you have. When you are putting more soil in your backyard, be mindful of the effect that the new soil can have on your backyard ecosystem.

Insects are the third part of an ecosystem that we will discuss here. While people tend to hate or avoid insects, insects play an instrumental role in maintaining an ecosystem. They are a good food source for animals, aid in pollination, and promote the diversity of other insects. If you did not have any insects in your ecosystem, then the entire ecosystem would collapse and you would be unable to maintain any plant or animal life.

Birds and mammals are also an important part of any ecosystem. Consider yourself sitting on a chair in your backyard, and you see a little bunny hopping across the lawn. Or maybe you are enjoying breakfast in your kitchen as you hear the birds chirping in the morning. The animals that make up your backyard ecosystem are not only beautiful, but also necessary for your backyard ecosystem to survive. Animals are important for controlling the insect and plant population, fertilizing the yard, and spreading seeds to improve plant reproduction. Animals are also attracted to various food sources, such as flowers and seeds, so be mindful of what you have in your garden if you want to attract, or not attract, certain animals.

Turning Your Yard Into a Backyard Ecosystem

The missing component to the backyard ecosystem we talked about is…you! When we bring together all of the individual components of the ecosystem, such as the soil, the insects, the animals, the plants, and the climate, we create an ecosystem. But to transition your plain old yard into a thriving backyard ecosystem, we need to make sure that the ecosystem is working for you.

Whether you want to use your backyard as a scenic garden, as a social spot to hang out, or for family gatherings, you are the missing piece of your backyard ecosystem. It is important to consider what you want to use your backyard for: do you want it to include a patio for your friends to come together for a relaxed evening watching the sunset? Do you want your backyard to be a place for your kids and grandkids to barbeque and play games? Or perhaps you want your backyard to be for you, a scenic place of calm and relaxation. Whichever it may be, or a combination of a couple of those, consider how you want your backyard ecosystem to be used.

Being a Good Steward of Your Backyard Ecosystem

First, one of the best ways to maintain your backyard ecosystem in a sustainable manner is to compost! Composting your own food scraps is very manageable, and once you establish a rhythm, you will find yourself throwing away less trash and buying less soil. Compost is full of rich nutrients that can be incredibly beneficial to your plant life.

Second, avoid chemical fertilizers and focus on using organic compounds when maintaining your plant life. Ecosystems are tenuous due to the large number of components that interact to create a functioning ecosystem, so it is so important to be careful about what you introduce into an ecosystem. Chemicals can be harsh and dangerous to animals, and the runoff is damaging to our waterways.

Lastly, call Johnson’s Landscaping! We are the experts at maintaining backyard ecosystems, so call us today to ensure that your backyard ecosystem stays for decades to come.

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About the Author

Matt Johnson grew up in a family of landscapers and gardeners as the grandson of Raymond Johnson (Founder, 1933, Johnson's Florist and Garden Center) and son of James and Carol Johnson (Founders, 1960, Johnson's Landscaping Service, Inc.). Since 2007, he has led Johnson's Landscaping Service with his brother, Charlie.  Matt and his wife Jaime live in Petworth in Northwest DC with their 3 sons and 2 big dogs.

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