By Sonjie Johnson
“Healing the earth, one yard at a time.” The quote comes from Joe Crowe, who is a member of Wild Ones, a national, non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public about the “benefits of preserving and restoring biodiversity of our native plant communities, beginning in our own yards and gardens.” Along with a network of other volunteers, Joe works to preserve and restore native plants in various parts of Como Park.
Wild Ones encourages community gardens, as well as home owners to explore ways to restore plants adapted to local soils and climate, rather than to maintain exotic and sometimes invasive plantings. There are many benefits to native plants. They provide food and shelter for wildlife. They have deep roots and require little water once established. They promote the biodiversity that powers our ecosystem.
The Big River Big Woods chapter of Wild Ones bigriverbigwoods.org. offers many activities and services. These include monthly meetings that feature native gardening experts, tours of members’ yards to view examples of plants and garden styles, “how to” sessions on planting and maintaining native plants, and plant and seed sales and exchanges. The website also contains lists of plants native to Minnesota.
Wild Ones invites people to use their website and join them at one of their open-to-the public events to meet others and share information. There are seven active chapters in Minnesota for those who want to become a member.
The organization’s home website (http://Wildones.org) offers many forms of education and assistance, including free, professionally designed garden templates. In April, the website offers on-line “how-to” programs. Interested individuals can join and/or donate to their work.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency also has a website that outlines the benefits of native plants. They have tips for getting started: start small, pick the plants that will thrive in your yard’s soil. Check the ingredients to avoid neonicitinoid pesticides. Don’t have a yard? Adopt an open space through non-profits.
Many organizations and cities provide free or cost-share money for people who want to help the environment by planting native plants. See http://www.bwsr.state.mn.us/native_vegetation for additional resources
As neighbor’s plan their gardens this spring, Wild Ones hopes to see more indigenous plants in Como Park yards. A small area of native plants might seem insignificant, but it believes that the earth can be saved – one yard at a time.
Sonjie Johnson is a Como community member and regular contributor to our Know Your Como collection.