By Catherine Wachs
With just a few small changes, you can enrich your garden and help support the native Westchester ecosystem that depends on it.
Recycle plants – Simply by leaving leaves where they fall, you can recycle the rich nutrients they contain. In early spring, when cutting down last year’s growth, leave the cuttings in the bed or set them aside in a pile to compost. In fall, leaves can be mowed into your lawn or mounded (2-3” thick) on top of your plant beds. Mulching can help keep moisture in your beds, act as a protective and nutritious layer, and assist in keeping weeds at bay. Keep in mind that this should only be done with healthy leaves. Making mulch from sick plants can cause the disease to spread. Take a look at leaveleavesalone.org for more helpful information.
Stay away from chemicals – Chemicals such as weed and pest killers have a negative effect on our environment and our own health. These chemicals don’t magically disappear. They leach into the soil, harm the microbiota that enrich the soil and destroy its nutrients. Furthermore, once these chemicals are in our soil, they seep into the groundwater, which affects our streams, the Long Island Sound, our drinking water and wildlife.
Flowers for pollinators – Different flowers serve different purposes in the ecosystem. Open flowers such as asters, daisies, coneflowers, violets, yarrow and fennel are most inviting to pollinators of all sizes. These open flowers are much easier for bees to access rather than double blooms like roses and peonies. Of course, a thoughtfully designed garden can bloom throughout the seasons, providing food and bringing joy year round.
Plant natives – Using more native plants in your garden is essential to being more eco-friendly. Plants native to Westchester, NY offer habit to native fauna, supply migrating birds with the right kind of food (at the right time) and are generally less work to take care of. Exotic species can become invasive and outcompete natives for habitat and natural resources. Additionally, native plants provide breeding grounds for certain fauna. For example, the Monarch butterfly caterpillars will only feed on milkweed plants. Without these native plants, we would lose a beloved butterfly species.