Pictured Above: New native plant gardens help restore the function of habitats that have become disconnected by human patterns of colonization.
Our world is in desperate need of repair, and you’d have to look hard to find someone willing to stake an argument against it. We could enumerate the ways in which this repair is needed, but at this point we’d be wasting time. This is an urgent time for collective action.
The scale of the problems we face is certainly daunting, and that’s part of the reason enumerating them is of no help. The best thing we can do is take a deep breath, walk outside, and make a little change, even if only in our backyards.
Across this country and around the world, gardeners are embracing the concept of ReWilding their yards. Movements ranging from the Homegrown National Park to Project Drawdown are building on many of the same principals. Start by restoring the ecosystem that surrounds your house. Tell your neighbors, hoping they’ll catch on. If you have a small plot, or no plot of land, adopt an empty square of soil in your community that needs some love. Guerrilla garden if you need a bit of extra excitement in your life. Seed bomb the roadside with native plants.
You’re doing it for the birds and for the bees but you’re also doing it for yourself. We need the ecosystems that surround us, and we will realize our reliance on them more and more in the years ahead.
It’s planting season, a perfect time to begin.
“In the past, we have asked one thing of our gardens: that they be pretty. Now they have to support life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators and manage water,” says author Doug Tallamy, the entomologist and ecologist at the heart of the Homegrown National Park movement.
Native plants are the way to start, and they’re easier to find now than ever before. North Fork Audubon hosts two great native plant sales each season at The Red House in Greenport, while ReWild Long Island is teaming up with the Ecological Culture Initiative in Hampton Bays for native plant sales this year. The Long Island Native Plant Initiative is protecting the genetic integrity of local species at its cooperative garden in Brentwood. The Peconic Estuary Partnership even provides rebates to homeowners who replace their turf with native plantings, and commercial nurseries have responded to the demand for native plants and upped their offerings in recent years.
The resources are out there, and once you begin the research, chances are you’ll be excited enough to forget the problems facing the world.
You may have heard a lot in these pages in recent months about composting — it’s one great local solution to “big” problems ranging from Long Island’s increasingly dire refuse situation to the necessity of sequestering carbon.
“Just slap it up” is actually really good advice for coming up with a way to compost in your yard. There are plenty of discrete composting bins on the market that won’t annoy finicky neighbors, but even just a small enclosure behind a shed, where you can mix leaves and grass clippings with your kitchen coffee grinds and carrot peels, is an easy thing to do. It’s an added bonus that you can serve the products of this compost pile to your hungry new landscape.
Long Island is facing an impending garbage crisis with the closure of the Brookhaven Landfill scheduled for next year, making this a great time to work to eliminate your own garbage from the waste stream.
If you’re overwhelmed and looking for a place to get started with all these projects, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County is a great resource (ccesuffolk.org/gardening). Their wildly popular Spring Gardening School, to be held later this month, is filled with presentations from gardeners who are excited to share their knowledge, and volunteer Master Gardeners trained by CCE have been providing resources for community gardens for years. Their research center in Calverton will also test your soil to see what kind of amendments it needs to help you grow, and provides valuable information about plant diseases.
Help is all around. Go out and start digging. Ask questions and answer them. Encourage your neighbors, and let them encourage you. We’re all in this together.