Most of North America has been experiencing some variety of winter weather woes recently. Whether it’s the polar vortex and extreme cold in the Midwest and East Coast, Snowmageddon and power outages in the Pacific Northwest, or Rainmageddon on the West Coast, it has been a burden for horse owners eager for spring.
As a diversion to the weather, how about dreaming up a small-scale trail course complete with native plants that you can build? If that sounds good to you, Horses for Clean Water has you covered! We’ve got some tips on how to utilize native plants on your property.
Native plants are those that have evolved over thousands of years in a particular region. They have adapted to the geography, hydrology, and climate of an area and co-evolved with animals, fungi, and microbes. These plants are the foundation of our natural ecosystems. As a result, a community of native plants provides habitat for a variety of native wildlife species such as songbirds and butterflies. Logging, agriculture, and development have led to a tremendous loss of native vegetation and, consequently, critical wildlife habitat. However, many horse owners are making progress toward becoming wildlife habitat managers. Enhancing the horse property landscape with native plants promotes native wildlife, helps to control erosion, provides a visual buffer, and filters pesticides, fertilizers, and nutrients. Native plants are extremely adaptable and there is a diverse palette of natives to choose from—no matter where you live! Plus, in many parts of the country, they are currently on sale (at a low cost!) at conservations district bare roots seeding sales.
Here are some ideas for how native plants can enhance your property and work for you:
Plant hedgerows of native plants as an alternative to/along with fencing. Hedgerows act as wind barriers and provide an attractive visual boundary.
Species to consider for hedgerows: Beaked hazelnut, Nootka rose, Red-flowering currant, or coniferous and deciduous trees such as Douglas fir, Western redcedar, Black hawthorn and Pacific crabapple
Native plants make excellent mud managers alongside confinement areas to reduce flows, absorb water, and filter sediments and pollutants.
Species to consider for wet areas: Red osier dogwood, Pacific willow, Black twinberry, Salmonberry and Pacific ninebark
Native buffers along streams and wetlands protect riparian habitat by improving water quality and reducing erosion.
Species to consider for riparian areas: Western redcedar, Oregon ash, Black twinberry, Pacific ninebark, Salmonberry, Golden current
Plant native plants as decorative landscape features near your house and along the driveway. Many native shrubs and groundcovers exhibit beautiful arrays of colors in flowers and leaves. Choose a variety for year-round coverage.
Species to consider for ornamental value: Red-flowering currant, Mock orange, Salal, Sword fern, Kinnikinnick
Replace lawns with native plants to save time and money by reducing or even eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides, water, and lawn maintenance equipment.
Species to consider for drier areas: Douglas fir, Shore pine, Nootka rose, Big leaf maple, Beaked hazelnut, Thimbleberry, Snowberry, Oregon grape
Create a pollinator hedgerow. The types of plants you choose for food and cover will help determine the wildlife species attracted to your backyard. Grow a diversity of flowering plants with overlapping blooming times so native bees can forage from early spring until late fall. Provide flowers of various sizes, shapes and colors.
Species to consider: Echinacea, Lavender, Black-eyed Susans, Sunflowers, Cosmos
For more information on plants specific to your region—and to find out about plant sales—contact either your local conservation district or your land grant university extension office. Also check with local organic and native plant nurseries. For specifics on how to design a Small-Scale Trail Courses or Building Trail Obstacles, see our education schedule here.