The Power of Native Plants – Photo Diary

Pineallple Welcome sign USE        Welcome to our flower garden!

It’s been a very dry summer at the Small House Homestead; our lawn is parched browns and yet today our homestead is being blessed by a life-giving rain. Our thirsty garden and property is soaking up this lovely rain water while our water containment totes are gathering additional water for our autumn transplanting. Thank you Rain Gods!

Pool shack back and burning bish USE FIRST

Grasses, hosta’s and a non-native burning bush behind the pool shack.

SW Michigan is often droughty in late summer and it is for this very reason that I plan mostly native plants. One of the best thing about native plants and grasses is that once established they don’t need much additional water to bloom and continue to look pretty all season long.

VERT Green birdhouse and climber USE

Black Eyed Susan’s add a splash of color and seeds in the bird bed.

I have been watering our newly planted fruit trees every other day using a trickle hose to keep the roots wet but our grass has pretty much gone brown and dormant. It’s pretty ugly now but I know that this is temporary and our lawn will green up nice again when the autumn rain arrives.

Black eyed susans in front of playhouse USE

 Black eyed Susan’s in front of the meadow playhouse.

The blooming flowers pretty much make up for the unpleasant brown grass as the meadow and the blooms of the native plants are absolutely outstanding right now. It’s hard to imaging the grass being so ugly and the garden flowers being so beautiful but that’s the power of natives!

Pool fencing long shot with black Eye Susans

Ornamental grasses and native obscure the required metal chain link fence around the pool.

meadow edge from pool corner USE

Native plants, ornamental grasses and burn out lawn at the meadow.

North Tree line and Black eyed Susans

Some color peeks out at the hardwood forest tree line.

I leave some of our native flowers and ornamental grasses standing in the garden leaving the seeds for the song bird to  eat. And others, like our many brown eyed Susan’s, I let them stand until they have gone to seed. Then once the seed heads are dried and the seeds ready to fall out I cut off the seeds heads and stems and toss them into our ditch and other sunny areas where I want more plants to grow. Our brown eyed Susan’s are just the perfect native plant for easy seed spreading this way.

HORZ crabapple tree bed early a.m.A bed under the crabapple tree is filled with hosta’s, day lilies and Brown Eyed Susan’s.

I hope you enjoy this August Photo Diary of native plants and I hope that you too can bloom where you are planted!

Small House homesteader, Donna

Our Homesteads Native Plant Ecosystem

I get asked a lot of questions about our gardens here on the homestead, especially when folks find out we are a Back to Eden Garden. This means we subscribe to using bark chips as mulch and to grow our flowers and vegetable here.

White daisy's bunch

White daisy’s, a pass-along-plant grows in our meadow border. This is a plant given to me by my neighbor.

In fact, I spend a lot of my day in my gardens these days and every year I add more and more beds and plants. I adore working in and sharing my gardens with others.

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The view from our three season porch; sidewalk and bird feeding bed.

As you know, most plants thrive in well-drained soil. But if your soil is sandy and lean like ours is then too much draining can become an over-kill. Water and nutrients also run through it quickly and plants have a hard time surviving in this kind of environment. Fortunately, there’s a fix for turning this barren soil into a thriving garden.

Lupines bricks diaganol USE

Our first native lupine bed in front of the brick raised bed. Perennial candytuft and lupines flowers about the same time.

When we moved to the Small House Homestead in 2000, my dream was to garden on a big scale. I came from a small city lot though compact and wonderfully shaded it also came with clay soil. Too many plants drowned there for my comfort level and I was not yet a point where I had the time to devote to my gardens.

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The view from the bird feeding bed back towards the house and porch.

What I really longed for was lots of colorful flowers, ornamental grasses, flowering shrubs, evergreens and organic vegetables and I looked so forward to getting my hands into the land where the sun shined everywhere.

garden back of porch chartreuse and porch

A low garden behind our porch allows us to look out over our property and enjoy the birds.

Once I began to dig, what I found was very lean, very sandy oak savannah soil. This acid soil was not idea for growing anything but oak and pine trees. They don’t call this ecology the oak and pine barrens for nothing!

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First a fenced in vegetable garden and now an open chicken run.

Sandy soil has its pro’s and con-s but it can be easily amended and improved. I knew I had my work cut out for me I know, but I was strong and optimistic.

Front sidewalk from limestone bench

Front of home sidewalk with shrubs, catmint and saliva in pea gravel.

I started by testing our soil to find out it was a base 7.0 Then I began to seriously amend it to make more loam to hold in the water and nutrients I was also adding.

Bird bed stone edge w flowes NICE

Our country garden beds are edged in found fields stones I have gathered.

I began to make homemade compost using kitchen scraps, grass trimmings and more. Then I bought mushroom compost and more recently found a source for free well compost horse manure. Now I use a combination of them all with bark chips mulch on top to hold in the moisture and keep out some of the weeds. This is a winning combination for us here!

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fall blooming clematis at our front door adds beauty and a sweet smell.

Gradually over the past 14 years our gardens have grown as have my skills and knowledge. I’ve made some mistakes for sure but I am known as the crazy gardening lady in my community and I can live with that!

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A metal gate in our repurposed railroad tie herb bed adds visual interest.

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A row of ornamental grasses hides a metal chain link fence around the pool at the pool shack with our wildflower meadow behind it.

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My granddaughters playhouse in the meadow garden edge.

Small House Homesteader and gardener Donna

Our New and Improved Small House Blog

If you’ve been following The Small House Under a Big Sky for any time you are likely realizing that our previous blog focus was mostly about our furniture restoration and painting business and it is now changing.

Black eyed Susans front of house

The front of the Small House this past July when the flowers were in full bloom.

This blog is evolving because our life is changing too. I recently realized that 90% of my time and energy is going into our gardening, our homesteading efforts and living a greener lifestyle. If you look back you’ll quickly realize that we are seeking to live a healthier lifestyle building the fertility of our life while building the fertility of our soil.

Walkway lined w grasses

The grass pathway between the meadow garden and the pool. the grasses and seed heads provide food for the songbirds.

And if you look back over the posts of the past few years you’ll quickly see that this blog was really about our practice of living sustainably and organically. As well as about our efforts to create a healthier and more meaningful lifestyle on our small 5-acre “farmette.”

Porch back with beds USE

A small garden bed behind our three-season porch overlooks the back yard and our majestic White Oak trees.

I have recently realized that our life here in this small community in SW Michigan is really all about changing our own small world while creating a sound, native, plant ecosystem and growing better soil and tastier and more healthy food.

Shell birdbath in greenery

One of four bird bath we monitor that keeps water ready for our songbirds.

Yes, I still save, refinish and repurpose vintage furniture but our life is about much more than that.

I have dedicated myself to saving our land, to improving our community and our health while creating something larger than ourselves to pass onto another when the time is right.

Butterfly bush - white garden decor USE

Butterfly bushes in the raised cedar bed sits adjacent to the meadow garden.

My goal is to live gratefully in right-livlihood, to practice my yoga and Reiki daily, to live a life of peace and justice in a community of like minded individuals. And like the Reiki healing techniques I live and practice the Reiki Principles I strive to live by…

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Just For Today Do Not Worry ~ Just For Today Do Not Anger ~ Just For Today Be Filled With Gratitude ~ Just For Today Do Your Work Honestly ~ Just For Today Be Kind To All People.

Be the change you seek.

Donna at the Small House Homestead.