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Westchester Pollinator Garden Tour

“Bringing native and pollinator-friendly plants into your home garden supports essential ecosystems AND beautifies our communities. Win-win!” - Fiona Mitchell

Written by Laura Cunningham, Bedford 2030 Community Engagement Intern.

The third annual Westchester Pollinator Garden Tour took place on Sunday, July 24th, drawing scores of visitors in spite of temperatures well into the 90s. Organized by Westchester Healthy Yards, the Pollinator Pathways Project, and Bedford 2030, this stunning event aimed to educate people on the importance of pollinators,  native plants and low emissions landscaping in our home gardens and properties. The tour featured more than 50  gardens all over Westchester County, including 10 in the Bedford, Mt. Kisco, Pound Ridge area. Dedicated Westchester residents who landscape using earth-friendly practices opened their gardens to visitors and spoke to them about their experiences with native plants, healthy yards, and the tips and tricks they have picked up along their journeys.

The Pollinator Pathways Project’s main goal is to bring awareness to the importance and current decline of pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, birds, beetles, bats and other wildlife in our ecosystems. Pollinators are essential in supporting biodiversity, including the crops and vegetation we grow to survive. They are also part of important and delicate food webs as all other wildlife rely on them to pollinate their food or feed their prey. But these hard workers have been declining rapidly in the age of perfectly manicured lawns, herbicides and fertilizers. 

The Healthy Yards Garden Tour was designed to encourage homeowners  to take steps to support pollinators and fix the damage that human activity has done to their populations. Getting involved  with the Pollinator Pathway Project is a great way to get involved. Native plants support native pollinators that work so hard to keep our gardens alive, keeping them fed and happy so their populations can increase and they can give us food and beautiful flowers. “Bringing native and pollinator-friendly plants into your home garden supports essential ecosystems AND beautifies our communities. Win-win!” says Fiona Mitchell,  co-founder of Healthy Yards. 

Native plants and healthy yards don’t only help pollinators, however. There are so many other ways that biodiverse gardens and native species help our environment. Turf grass grown in most yards is not native to this area, so keeping these plants healthy and looking attractive often requires pesticides, fertilizers, chemicals, polluting lawn maintenance, and an abundance of water. Native plants that have evolved to the climate, soil type, and other resources in our area are much more likely to succeed without these harmful additives that can pollute soil, air, and water sources. 

They also serve as a great alternative to traditional grass lawns, as more biodiversity in a property means healthier soil, greater water retention, more carbon sequestration, and of course, the support of local ecosystems that need our help. Plus, it’ll save you money! “Healthier properties mean more self-sufficient gardens, reducing the need for costly maintenance and toxic chemicals,” says Eve Hundt, program director of Rooted Solutions at Bedford 2030.

These gardens can serve as inspiration to learn more about native plants, access local resources, and perhaps register your own home for the Pollinator Pathway!