On Sunday, Sept. 13, dozens of Westchester gardens will be open to the public to demonstrate how homeowners and land managers can support pollinators and encourage biodiversity in our own backyards.
Organized by the sustainable gardening nonprofit Healthy Yards and Bedford 2030, the Westchester Pollinator Garden Tour is designed to encourage residents to join in climate action now by implementing healthy yard practices that will drive positive environmental change in the community.
Landscaping practices that improve the health of land and soil can draw carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground. Healthy land practices also include using less fossil fuels by mowing less and using electric equipment.
Attendees will have the opportunity to learn from experts about maintaining landscapes without the use of toxins, without gas burning equipment, and with the use of native plants. At each of the public properties and some of the private ones, experienced gardeners will be available to answer questions.
Bedford 2020 is relaunching later this month as Bedford 2030: Climate Action Now with a plan to reduce communitywide greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2030 and opportunities for all residents to be involved in building a healthier future. It is planning a program of virtual and in-person activities during Climate Week, Sept. 21 to 27. The organization is launching a new website soon at bedford2030.org.
Representatives of Westchester Land Trust will be on hand at the Pine Croft Meadow with their pop-up pollinator display. Also attending will be Karalyn Lamb of the Native Plant Center, who will provide expert information and answer questions on healthy gardening practices.
“The point of this tour is not to showcase immaculately manicured gardens,” said Healthy Yards Co-founder Filippine Hoogland. “Rather, it is to showcase gardens and meadows that support pollinators and biodiversity, have a small carbon footprint and generally utilize earth-friendly landscaping techniques.”
The garden tour will feature public gardens and preserves, and some may not look aesthetically pleasing in the conventional sense, according to Ms. Hoogland. But, she continued, they may offer another type of beauty, in the form of visitors like birds and butterflies. Additionally, some of the gardens will show what is possible in areas with serious deer impact.
The tour will include very small gardens, which, in spite of their size, can offer a valuable food source for pollinators and other beneficial insects.
It will also feature the renowned Pound Ridge native plant garden created by naturalist Sara Stein and lovingly preserved by owners Ellen and James Best. Another stop on the tour will be Farmer’s Garden, also in Pound Ridge, a natural land area made mostly of herbs and perennials, which acts as a bee apiary.
“By showcasing a range of gardens,” Ms. Hoogland said, “we hope visitors will understand how the conventional lawn-centric backyards can switch to more sustainable landscaping practices, without a huge investment, and can be developed into areas that support pollinators and birds.”
More than 50 properties — from tiny postage stamp parcels, storefronts or window boxes, to land trust properties, municipal gardens and large estates will be open that day.
Bedford 2020 is promoting the event as a lead up to its Climate Week activities as the organization relaunches with new goals, a new plan and new energy as Bedford 2030.
“Cleaner, healthier landscaping is a critical aspect of the community’s environmental impact,” said Program Director Ellen Calves. “Our yards are a great place to reduce our carbon footprint, and, like many of the carbon reducing measures we recommend, healthy yard practices also bring savings, health benefits and joy from the increase in pollinators, butterflies and birds.”
The full list of gardens can be seen at healthyyards.org/tour.
The garden tours will be offered in two sessions, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., or 1 to 4 p.m. Attendees must follow COVID-19 restrictions by wearing a mask and social distancing.
Some private residences on the tour have limited parking, so visitors might have to wait for a spot to open or go to another garden instead.
Also, organizers said garden owners might close their yard if they feel that safety protocols cannot be maintained. Closings will be listed on the tour map on the website.
Healthy Yards is an initiative run by volunteers to increase awareness and provide support for healthy landscaping practices. The organization collaborates with partners throughout the region, including Westchester Pollinators.
For more information, visit healthyyards.org