A Greener Thumb

The White House provides highly visible evidence of a national resurgence in the pursuit of gardening. A rather large garden—1,100 square feet—containing lettuces and herbs, as well as spinach, kale, broccoli and various berries will provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the First Family, White House staff and guests.
Gardening is green on many levels. A kitchen garden encourages the consumption of healthy, organic food. By eating locally-grown produce, we reduce the environmental cost of our meals since the transport of food from other regions requires fossil fuel and contributes to pollution. Growing anything—especially the food we eat—is the ultimate in harnessing solar energy because the sun does much of the garden work for us.
Xeriscaping is a phrase used to describe landscaping in a way that eliminates or reduces the need for additional irrigation. Using drought-resistant plants carefully relative to the terrain takes advantage of rainfall and reduces the need for water to maintain crops and plantings. Xeriscaping is catching on as an environmentally-conscious practice even in areas like ours that are surrounded by water.
A basic tenet of xeriscaping, which carries over to mainstream gardening is the selection of native plants—those vegetables, fruits and flowers appropriate for the local climate. Selecting native plants increases the likelihood of successful gardening and landscaping. Additional benefits include a reduction in the need for soil additives and chemicals, and an improvement in the maintenance of the balance required to sustain local wildlife. The Kentucky bluegrass lawns cultivated with frequent watering, mowing and fertilizing can be replaced with little bluestem, fescues, or sedge varieties. In plantings, juniper and vibernum species can introduce pleasing color to reduce reliance on annual planting beds. Perhaps the biggest benefit of using native plants is easier gardening—less time maintaining and weeding, and more time enjoying.
As you survey your property for spring cleanup this year, consider ways to honor nature with indigenous plants, using hardscape elements such as stone walls to create planting beds and add interest. A landscape designer can create plans to use your property’s natural characteristics, add hardscape features that will last a lifetime and get you started with a smart selection of local plants.

Tom Mirabella is President of LIHome411.com, a directory of prescreened home improvement contractors on Long Island that specializes in helping homeowners find the right contractors for any job.