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Davis Journal

Get your yard back to a ‘natural uncultivated state’ through rewilding

Oct 06, 2022 12:05PM ● By Kerry Angelbuer

Neighborhoods in the Southwest often display yards covered in a sea of colorful rock, referred to as cobble. The cobble does not stay contained and covers the streets and sidewalks getting stuck in small wheels and flying toward windshields. The prickly cacti planted in these rock fields appear half dead in the relentless heat reflected by the artificial rock base. Utah is much greener and cooler than these unfortunate states like New Mexico and Arizona, so different options are available to make an inviting neighborhood environment even with reduced water available fueled by drought and marked population growth. The rock may look clean and easy to maintain for a few years here in Utah, but our more favorable climate will try to reclaim even barren landscapes covered with plastic and cobble. Picture rock overcome with spindly weeds baking in the heat generated by this bleak landscape choice. The homeowner considering water-wise alternatives to all, or part of the home landscape may want to make a choice on the wild side. A movement called rewilding may be the perfect solution for more interesting, biodiverse, earth-friendly, and comfortable (cooler in summer) outdoor living spaces.

Rewilding is the art of inviting back into your yard native plants and animals. Getting back to a “natural uncultivated state” will likely take some human intervention, but once achieved will reward with very little need for cultivation or as over-extended adults might phrase it, very little need for work. Julie Robinson, who lives on the bench halfway up the mountain, is passionate about preserving a useful landscape as close to nature as possible. A grove of scrub oak near her home was recently demolished to make way for new construction and her family felt the loss keenly. Gone was a shady respite filled with diverse wildlife and plants for her large family to play in. “Trees provide shade for grass and other plants to thrive,” she said. “If you look around after this hot summer, the homes with trees often look better – less savaged by our record-breaking heat.”

Letting weeds grow is often natures first step in reclaiming land. Robinson even likes bindweed, recognizing its role in improving the condition of the soil. These plants that grow without intervention are the first steps in rewilding. As they decompose on the ground the colonies of bacteria and fungi that make up living soil are supported. Robinson said. “Planting trees and plants in a basin will encourage natural water to flow to the roots” cutting down the need for irrigation. 

Many busy people have discovered that if you step aside, mother nature will take over quickly – the first step to rewilding is to let the native plants, otherwise known as weeds, grow. Dandelions and clover strengthen your lawn providing nutrients and piercing the soil to allow water freer access. Sage, Indian Tobacco, arrowroot flowers, wild rose, and scrub maple, which changes to yellow, orange and red in the fall, are all native to our desert mountain climate. Instead, of covering your areas with rock, put down a good layer of mulch which looks neat and gives the soil a head start on retaining water and supporting microflora. Instead of spraying for bugs, put in a two-feet deep water feature with rocks for safety that will attract dragonflies to control unwanted bugs (mosquitos) and add interest to the twilight sky. Instead of turf, support a wildflower meadow for local bees and other pollinators. Don’t throw away leaves and grass clippings, but rather use it around the yard to mulch or make a compost pile for small mammals to enjoy. Make yards accessible by leaving small entrances for the local animal life to enter. Plant fruit trees to feed birds and health-minded people. Rewilding is a generous, earth-friendly way to make home a haven for all of nature including human families. λ