Long Island invented the suburban lawn. Fields of green with ornamental bushes brought in from all over the world requiring all manner of care — watering, fertilizing, pesticides — so that exotics and plants from other climates could survive here. But this search for artificial “perfection” comes with a heavy price, especially for local wildlife and the ecosystem services provided by our bays.
Bay Friendly Yards® incorporates native trees, bushes, shrubs and grasses. Think rich, colorful landscapes that can look meadow-like or be more manicured. These in turn recreate the ecosystems necessary to support local birds and insects, particularly pollinators such as bees and butterflies. They require little extra water and no chemical or pesticides because they belong here. In addition the complex, intertwined root systems of the native plantings, and the rich biome they create through leaf litter and soil accretion, means cleaner water for a healthier bay.
Here are the top three elements needed for a Bay Friendly Yard®: habitat restoration, stormwater management and eco-friendly maintenance. Incorporating any, or better yet ALL, of these elements to help keep our Bay clean by preventing or eliminating the risk of pollution into our soils and waterways while helping foster native species.
#1 Habitat Restoration
Habitat restoration means different things in different places. There is no tract of land too small to make a difference, and it can have either a natural or more manicured look. Examples of habitat restoration include: Identification and removal of invasive species, planting of native plant species, creating a water feature, and removing or reducing lawn area. The National Wildlife Foundation plant finder makes identifying native species as easy as entering your zipcode.
#2 Stormwater Management
Stormwater runoff, and the damaging nutrients and chemicals that it contains, continue to degrade the Great South Bay. A Bay Friendly Yard is one that endeavors to maintain stormwater onsite. Techniques include the use of rain barrels, rain gardens, permeable pavers/pavement, or planting native plants that require little to no additional irrigation.
#3 Local Stewardship
We prefer the term stewardship to yard maintenance. An obvious step one can take is to eliminate the wasteful and damaging practice of the application of pesticides or fertilizers. Instead, try mulching your leaves in the fall and allowing them to fertilize your yard over the winter. Mow less often and use a mulching blade where you can—every two weeks is fine, and your lawn won’t grow out of control. Continuous monitoring and removal of invasive plants also constitutes good stewardship.
If you incorporate two or more of the above elements – thank you – you have a Bay Friendly Yard! Save The Great South Bay offers a certification program to recognize it. Apply today to get certified and display our exclusive Certified Bay Friendly Yard® sign. Be a conversation starter in your neighborhood and help save the Bay one yard at a time. Have questions? Email [email protected].