Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Plant a Native Garden in Your Neighborhood!


by M. Courtenay Willcox

The importance of native species is echoed not just in garden clubs and botanical gardens, but by homeowners who can increase the number of native plants in their gardens while reducing the size of their lawns. This can also happen on church, business, and corporate campuses. Native species are central to sustaining biodiversity, and I’ve taken an idea that was birthed at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Plant Native/Native Plant, on the road by creating a community pollinating garden. BMPC’s Environmental Justice Committee is committed to supporting native plantings on the church’s campus, bringing attention to those plantings, offering resources, and encouraging members to plant native at home.

For my spin-off Plant Native/Native Plant project, I reached out to neighborhood families with young children and gauged their interest in a community garden, which now sits between properties and faces the sidewalk, letting anyone who walks by witness the efforts of the neighborhood’s youngest residents.

“Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.” ~Henry David Thoreau from notes written 1856-1861

Thoreau’s quote was read before planting began, mostly for the benefit of the parents who were in attendance. Then the neighborhood children, ages 1-12, started digging into the dirt to plant 18 native plants that included: Penstemon digitalis, foxglove beardtongue; Carex stricta, tussock sedge; Aster divaricatus, white wood aster; Allium cernuum, nodding onion; Penstemon hirsutus, hairy beardtongue; Solidago rugosa, wrinkleleaf goldenrod.

Before planting, the families received a children’s rewrite of Doug Tallamy’s Natures Best Hope: (Young ReadersEdition) How You Can Save the World in Your Own Yard which, among other things, explains the importance of planting native plants to attract and feed native insects and how this type of nature conservation can happen right outside your backdoor. Planting a native plant is such an easy thing to do. Our garden is proof that anyone, at any age, can plant a native plant.

Native plants also work to create a native greenway that sustains and increases biodiversity, which, in part because of lawn monoculture, is in peril. I was inspired by Doug Tallamy and Home Grown National Park, which provides a blueprint of ways to increase biodiversity within your yard, linking it with a neighbor’s yard, and the ribbon of green grows to support native species. HGNP followers are encouraged to regenerate biodiversity by planting native with no experience required!

Our community native garden was an easy project with just a little investment. The payoffs were huge! Pre-education happened in individual households from Tallamy’s book. Then, purchasing an inexpensive 8’x4’ cedar framed raised bed, toting free fill-dirt from our township’s leaf compost (amazing!), and ordering Bloom Boxs native plant fill-a-flat consisting of 18 beautiful plants that were delivered, was easy. We also planted mountain mint, milkweed, and cone flower seeds which are sprouting.

Through texts, the neighborhood arranged to come together and plant at 5:00 p.m. on a May afternoon. My granddaughters were in attendance as I stood on the sidewalk and looked hopefully down the street. It was empty. And then, just like in the movie, Field of Dreams (if you build it, they will come), the sidewalks filled with children, trowels in hand, and their parents, for the planting festivities.

All the participants have helped water through dry times, and after a deer nibbling, I covered the bed with some netting which has deterred bunny and deer munching. The plants and seeds are flourishing!

This was such a gratifying project that produced a beautiful result and raised neighborhood awareness around the importance of native planting. My heart is full. Anyone can use this model to start a native garden in their own neighborhood. It is an easy lift to support creation care and give a much-needed boost to native insects. Let’s keep the ribbon of green, that will support native pollinators, unfurling throughout our neighborhoods and communities. And remember, Plant Native/Native Plant.

Courtenay's passion around environmental issues is the third leg of a stool that also includes family and God.  She moderated her church's Environmental Justice Committee, founded a local interfaith green group, and partners with PA IPL to share resources with regional faith institutions.  A recent seminary graduate with a certificate in environmental theology, she currently serves Tree of Life Church in Springfield, PA as a transitional pastor.

No comments:

Post a Comment