I am pretty new to the whole Permaculture world and, though I have been reading everything my local library can put into my hands, I am sorely lacking in real-world experience.
I am trying to renovate a suburban backyard on Long Island (Zone 6A).
I am tearing out a rampantly-overgrown dual monoculture (Is that an oxymoron?) of English Ivy and Silver Maples.
These two species have choked out nearly every other thing in the yard aside from a pair of Black Walnuts and a few heavily storm-damaged pines.
I am hand-pulling the Ivy (tedious, but more certain than any other method) and will be removing most of the Maples to get some sunlight to the ground.
In order to keep the soil from blowing away, I will be planting Dwarf White Clover as a first/interim step.
Trading one/two monocrops for another isn't really a big step forward, but at least the new planting is more beneficial and less harmful than the old.
Now to my questions:
1) I'd like to plant a bunch of pollinator-friendly/insectary plants, but I'd like to keep my wife and the neighbors happy.
The list of recommended plants via Xerces.Org and Ernst Conservation Seeds:
Blue False Indigo
Partridge Pea Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Tall White Beardtongue
Narrowleaf Mountain Mint
New England Aster
Little Bluestem 'Camper'
I did some web-searching but my Google-Fu is not strong and I'm having some reservations about many of the recommended plants.
For instance, I see that Blue False Indigo can grow to be 24" to 48" tall. 2 feet would be great, 4 feet would not.
Similar issues pop up with things like Common Boneset (36" to 72") and Purple Coneflower (24" to 60").
A bunch of native wildflowers that would bring a bit of visual interest and lots of happy bugs to the yard would be terrific.
Something that looks like an overgrown mess to the neighbors and wife would be not-so-terrific.
I would really like to keep the maximum height under 36" with a few possible exceptions along a fenceline (Those Giant Sunflowers maybe?)
I would like to have as many things in flower as possible, for as long as possible.
I would prefer to go with native species but understand that the above two wants may make that impossible.
Real world input on how big these plants actually get?
2) Secondly, can anyone recommend a reliable soil testing service that does a "full service" test?
Our local county extension service only does pH testing.
I asked about NPK tests and they referred me to a lab that looks like they only do nutrient testing without pH.
I would rather pay for one test and get a complete analysis, but web searches provide the usual abundance of questionable services.
Thanks in advance for any assistance or information and apologies for the Wall-O-Text.
Alyssum is a good plant. Alyssum attracts ladybeetles, hoverflies, bees, and lacewings. Depending on your climate and microclimate alyssum will either selfseed or act as a perennial. Where I live it flowers all winter long. Plus, the leaves and flowers are edible.
purple coneflower is one of my favorites. the finch, bees and butterflies are on them all summer.
they are drought resistant and prolific. bad news is if they like your soil and conditions you will not have a two foot plant.
in fact if your soil is good then most of your plants will exceed their specs.
Castaway Compost - Yer Trash be Treasure! castawaycompost.com
I second the echinacea suggestion. Between that and the zinnias we planted every year we had a never-ending stream of butterflies, bees, and good wasps. Tho letting parsley, carrots, cilantro, and chives go to seed is the easiest way for the garden. They don't have long bloom times each but together with some thyme and oregano you've got a steady stream of something useful and blooming the whole season.
A plant I've observed that is absolutely a magnet for ladybird beetles is golden marguerite ( genus Anthemis. It served as a nursery plant in a much drier environment ( Wyoming) and I'm incorporating again in my new place in Montana. It used to be covered with ladybird larvae in later spring. Can't say how it'll handle your wetter climate than the eastern side of the Rockies, but its small composite flowers provide nectar for a period of many weeks. Hope this helps.
Thanks to everyone who responded for the suggestions. Especially for the link to Pollinator.Org. Now all I have to do is figure out how much I can afford to plant and how much "nature" I can jam down the throat of Suburbia.