By the Bronxville Green Committee
March 22, 2023: In 2007, entomologist Doug Tallamy published Bringing Nature Home and started a revolution in how we landscape our yards.
Just as scientists were more urgently warning about a crisis in biodiversity, Doug began noticing that as he replaced invasive plants on his Pennsylvania property with plants that were native to the area, the wildlife returned. He’d studied insects all his life, but he’d never made the connection--native plants supported the full lifecycle of the insects, and once they came back, so did birds, butterflies, and other wildlife all the way up the food chain. Suddenly what was once a sterile landscape was bursting with life!
Doug made a further realization—our yards and the way we care for them are a big part of the problem. Sixty million acres in the U.S.—about 20% of the total country—is planted in lawn, which we mow with pollution spewing machines, douse with chemical fertilizers and herbicides, and irrigate with 7 billion gallons of water each day. Lawn is generally considered an ecological dead zone because it does not support local wildlife.
Doug launched HomegrownNationalParks.org, based on the premise that we can turn our backyards into mini-national parks by changing our landscaping practices and inviting nature to return. What he began has grown into a national movement.
Six Steps To Create a Lively, Healthy Yard This Spring
Shrink your lawn: Consider reducing the size of your lawn by planting around the edges and seeding with clover, which adds nitrogen and attracts pollinators, and fescue, a native grass with deeper roots that requires less water than the traditional Kentucky bluegrass.
Eliminate Pesticides & Ask for Organic Treatments: In Westchester, over 6,000 pounds of pesticides are applied per square mile each year, far more than is used for agriculture. Though pesticides are often promoted as being targeted to a specific insect, and not harmful to other living beings, that is simply not true. Pesticides move through the soil, air and water, producing ill effects wherever they go.[i]
Add Native Plants: Plants that are native to our particular area are best suited to provide food and habitat for wildlife that is also native to our area. As you add native trees, shrubs and flowers to your garden, you’ll discover a new world of gorgeous plants while doing your part to address drastic declines in biodiversity and the “insect apocalypse.”
Remove Invasives: The English ivy (and other invasive vines) climbing up the tree in your yard is bad news. It must be cut near the base of the tree, or the tree may be smothered and die. Once cut, the vine should be left alone to wither and fall off by itself. Never attempt to pull the vine off the tree, which can endanger you and further harm the tree.
Mow Less: By letting grass grow longer, the roots become stronger and go deeper, making your lawn less vulnerable to pests, diseases and weeds. This Spring ask your landscaper to mow your lawn every other week instead of every week, maybe even skip the month of May. No Mow May is becoming increasingly popular!
Turn off the Lights: Birds and especially insects become confused and their biorhythms are disturbed by bright lights at night, often with fatal results. It’s one reason insects have suffered catastrophic declines in recent years. Turning off your lights, directing them downward, and putting them on motion-sensors can all help address what we now realize is a serious problem.
Reduce Your Use of Gas-Powered Blowers: By kicking organic debris, fungus, and animal excrement into the air, leaf blowers increase respiratory diseases. Instead, leave grass clippings on the lawn to restore the soil’s nutrients. In the fall, mulch your leaves (or leave them whole) and place them around planting beds for even more beneficial results!
Looking for more…
Bedford 2030 The Power of Trees—On Saturday, March 25 (Fox Lane School, Bedford, 9 a.m.-1 p.m; small fee charged) Bedford is hosting a forum on trees that developed from its Rooted Solutions program, which looks for natural solutions to our ecological crisis. A full program of speakers and scores of vendors will inspire you with the exciting nature-based answers we’re just beginning to implement in response to the dual challenges of plunging biodiversity and climate change. Hope to see you there!
The Bronxville Green Committee is a volunteer organization that is part of the Village of Bronxville. We work to propose and implement environmentally sustainable programs in our community. Visit us at www.bronxvillegreencommittee.org
[i] Cornell Cooperative Extension and NY DEC, Pesticide Sales and Use Reporting Program
The Bronxville Green Committee is a volunteer organization under Village government. We work with the Trustees and Village staff on programs that promote clean energy initiatives and sustainable ways of living. Our programs include The Bronxville Giving Garden, a community garden whose produce is donated to local groups; Take Back Day, when we collect items to be recycled; and Pollinator Pathways, which encourages adding native plants to our gardens. We believe everyone can make a difference by adopting simple, sustainable practices in daily life so we can work together to protect what we love -- our families, our homes and our town.