Are you looking to create a wildlife backyard habitat? Try planting magic carpet spirea, a native plant that is beneficial to butterflies. (Pam Roy photo)

Are you looking to create a wildlife backyard habitat? Try planting magic carpet spirea, a native plant that is beneficial to butterflies. (Pam Roy photo)

Ways to give back to your community through gardening

  • Thursday, March 23, 2017 1:30am
  • Life

Times seem unsettled these days. Many of us are asking ourselves, “How can I make a difference? What is a positive impact I can contribute?”

The big picture may seem daunting. However, there are many simple ways to have an impact locally, in our own yards and neighborhoods.

Social weeding. You may be familiar with the term “block watch.” You may even have an organized a block watch program in your neighborhood to deter crime. One way a few neighbors and I have of connecting with each other is through what we call social weeding. Think of it as block watch gone green.

Our increasingly busy schedules were leaving little time for neighborhood visits, and our yards seemed to have a daunting population of weeds. Shared weeding sessions became a fun way to connect. We laughed, told stories and tidied up our gardens while getting to know each other.

Some days more work got accomplished, other days more laughter and stories occupied our time. For those of us who enjoy being outside and enjoy playing in the dirt, this is a great way to create community while beautifying your neighborhood.

Eat local. You may have read an article about a movement toward eating foods that are grown close to home. What could be more local than growing edibles in your own yard? Creative planning can find a space for edibles in even the smallest yard.

A container of herbs in a sunny spot along the driveway, a raised bed for vegetables, an old garbage can turned into a container for berries — the possiblitilies are limitless.

Even a townhouse with only a small deck can have a place for edibles if it receives at least six hours of sun. There are many new varieties of edibles bred specifically for small areas that increase the possibilities to enjoy your own local harvest.

Cherry tomato varieties such as Red Robbin and Lizzano have either a low or trailing growth habit and can be grown in containers without taking over your patio or deck.

The compact bush bean French Mascotte does well in a pot, offering colorful purple blossoms and is a prolific producer of crisp green beans.The pea variety Little Marvel grows to a diminutive 2-3 inches tall. It can be a seasonal centerpiece in a pot, ringed with baby bok choi and a few salad greens.

Visit your local nursery or seed catalog company for more ideas. Share a fragrant bouquet of herbs or lettuce leaves with a new neighbor as a way of welcoming them to the area.

Share space. Not enough gardening space in your yard? No problem. How about sharing a spot in the yard next door? One of my neighbors with a very green thumb asked if she could grow a few vegetables in an unoccupied corner of my back yard. I said yes. At the very least, it’s one less area for me to weed.

I got to know this neighbor during her visits to tend to the new crops. Benefits of this shared space were reaped both in friendship and in the delicious fresh vegetables that were delivered to my front porch throughout the harvest season. A shared plot of garden offers opportunities for neighbors to grow together, both figuratively and literally.

Plant a row. What to do with that abundant harvest? Those beans that keep producing, the over abundance of zucchini you can’t give away to even your best friend? Across the nation, gardeners are participating in the Plant a Row for the Hungry program. When planting your garden, throw in an extra row of a variety of garden crops. The harvest can be donated to Plant a Row or your local food bank.

To find out more about Everett’s Plant a Row for the Hungry program, go to www.voaww.org/projectharvest. Or contact Stephanie Aubert by phone at 425-259-3191 ext. 13058 or email at saubert@voaww.org.

Community cleanup. Is there a yard on your street that looks like it needs a little TLC? Perhaps whoever lives there is unable to take care of the yard for a variety of reasons. An offer to do some weeding or tidying up may be much appreciated. This may open the door to another way to create community or at least beautify your neighborhood.

Create backyard wildlife habitat. With the increasing loss of wildlife habitat through development, gardeners can commit to incorporating plants that benefit butterflies and hummingbirds by creating habitat and offering nutrition. Adding pollinator plants to the garden may bring in bees to pollinate edibles, increasing the harvest for you to enjoy. Neighbors can work together to create wildlife corridors of beneficial plantings.

The use of native plants in the home landscape contributes to these wildlife corridors with plants that generally require little maintenance.

The Everett Backyard Habitat program can help you identify native plants to attract wildlife, design water sources and set up bird feeders and houses in your yard in to create an environmentally friendly back yard habitat.

For more information about Everett’s Backyard Habitat program, go to pilchuckaudubon.org. Or contact Jed Holmes at habitat@pilchuckaudubon.org or 360-421-8423.

Local impact starts right here at home in our own gardens and in our own neighborhoods. Make your difference wherever you are called to do so in a way that cultivates joy in your heart.

Pam Roy: info@planscapesdesign.com, 425-252-9468, www.planscapesdesign.com.

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