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A Diverse Landscape is a Healthier Landscape
by Don Janssen, Extension Educator

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Popular plants can be overplanted in the landscape. Planting lots of one specific plant not only gets monotonous, but can lead to problems. Monoculture plantings consisting of mostly or all of one species should be avoided, primarily because if a major pest or problem develops, all the planting may be wiped out.

Diverse plant populations, created through mixing species and varieties (or cultivars) of the same species, can withstand insects, disease, and environmental problems better than a single type of plant. Planned properly, diverse plantings are also much more attractive to view.

Dutch elm disease and the decline of the American elm makes a classic example. Rows of American elms were planted along streets throughout the country. Along came Dutch elm disease, a fungus that kills elms very rapidly and readily spreads from tree to tree. Once the disease got started, little could be done except watch one mature elm shade tree after another die. Streets that were lined with excellent shade trees were suddenly barren.

Similar disease and insect problems could occur if the same planting ideas are repeated. Plantings of various types of trees would not be subject to this devastation, as different trees are prone to different problems. Keep this in mind when planning landscapes and windbreaks.

These same principles apply to lawns. Mixtures of turfgrass species, such as Kentucky bluegrass with fine fescue and/or perennial ryegrass, can adapt better to varying conditions on a site. Even more important is the use of turfgrass blends. A blend is the combination of different cultivars (or varieties) of a single species. For example, most quality packaged bluegrass seed contains 3-4 cultivars. Using mixtures and blends when seeding turf areas helps assure a diverse population that withstands most problems or stresses that may occur.

When planning vegetable and flower gardens, groundcovers, and other landscape plantings, keep these ideas in mind. There are significant differences in weather stress tolerance and disease resistance in all types of plants.

(This resource was added February 19, 2006 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office