Your yard can be the newest Homegrown National Park:
The world’s ecosystems are in trouble…and that also means that we humans are at risk. Scientists have started referring to this era as the Anthropocene – because the impact of human activity dominates the planet, and that impact is detrimental to the survival of the very complex and diverse ecosystems upon which life depends.
We are initiating a program to encourage residents to participate in this fun effort – in their own yards – that will help restore our community’s biodiversity, ecological health, and beauty. The more yards that join, the more connected these healthy plots of land can be. Such “habitat connectivity” enables pollinator insects and other wildlife to move around among healthy environments in their search for food and water, mates, shelter, and places to nest.
To inspire and help as many residents as possible to convert at least some of their lawn to native, pollinator-attractive plantings.
In conjunction with similar upgrades of landscaping on town lands such as parks and within farmlands, we will ensure that local wildlife has well-connected, high-quality habitat options. Our communities will be contributing to the global restoration of ecosystem health that we so urgently need.
THE HOW and WHY:
“Homegrown National Park” is a concept designed by entomologist Doug Tallamy, who says:
“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.”
The combined area of residential yards across the country exceeds the combined area of at least 13 of our largest National Parks. By transforming even some of this acreage of largely unproductive turf grass into pockets of diverse native plants that are useful to insects, particularly pollinators, birds, and other wildlife, we could restore some of the biodiversity that is so rapidly disappearing. Small steps like this, taken by LOTS of individuals, can lead to important change.
Check out https://homegrownnationalpark.org/get-started for more information and inspiration!
TO GET STARTED:
Here are the guidelines for rethinking your yard and to get on the map of Monroe County’s growing contribution to the Homegrown National Park.
Reduce your lawn by planting a diversity of native trees, shrubs, and flowers. Doug Tallamy recommends that 70% of a successful pollinator garden must contain native plant species. Go for the common species name. For example, choose coneflower -- Echinacea purpura rather than Echinacea purpura ‘Magnus’ (a hybrid and not the original native).
WildOnes article on Nativars and other resources here.
Shopping guide: Habitat Gardening in Central New York Native Plant Shopping Guide
Identify native trees you have in your yard. If you don’t have any keystone native trees and shrubs, we encourage you to plant one or more. Keystone native trees are those that host more native insect species than others. Thus, keystone species are essential to successful food webs. Look at Native Plant Finder by Zip Code
Add one or more of the following keystone herbaceous plants that are host plants for native insects: Goldenrods, Asters, and Sunflowers. It is also important to add native plants that flower at different times for our native pollinators.
Look at Native Plant Finder by Zip Code
Read and follow Fall, Winter, Spring clean-up suggestions. Fallen leaves provide not only nutrients for the soil but also shelter for caterpillar cocoons and pupae that overwinter. So it’s important to leave that leaf litter under trees, around rocks, stumps, edges, and on the ground where your perennial native flowers die back for the winter.
Articles: Don’t spring into garden cleanup too soon!
Leave the Leaves!
Nesting and Overwintering Habitat Xerces.org
Learn to identify and remove herbaceous and woody invasive plants in your yard: There are many beneficial native alternatives to the invasive species that have been planted or have invaded our yards.
Articles: Invasives Overview
Invasive Plant Disposal
Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants
Do not use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers! These chemicals kill soil microbes that keep soil and plants healthy. They also kill insects that are important food for birds, especially in the spring. Their use is antithetical to the goals of growing a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Use organic compost and fertilizers.
If you already use these practices or have started the process of changing your yard care practices, we want you on the map…even if your native plantings are so far restricted to containers. Please go to https://homegrownnationalpark.org/the-map
Join the Pittsford Challenge for a Toxic-Free Neighborhood!
We also will be keeping a local map as a tool towards the goal of connectivity of native plant habitat gardens in our communities. So, if you have accomplished these guidelines to your satisfaction, please let us know on the form below.
This local map, showing only streets (not house numbers) where residents have signed on, will be updated regularly.
Keep checking back to both these sites [HomegrownNationalPark and the local map here] to add your own new data and to follow our community's progress!
Demonstrate to your friends and neighbors your commitment and accomplishment by placing a sign in your yard identifying it as a native plant habitat garden. Your achievement will encourage others to join in expanding healthy ecosystem recovery!