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Polar Swoopy Thing

View From Space NOAA/NASA GOES Project
View From Space NOAA/NASA GOES Project

While we are in the midst of a frigid Polar Vortex, it is really kind of hard to think about Native Gardening.  But, if you can accept that humans are in part responsible for how the conditions came together to allow this to happen, then perhaps what follows has merit.

Here is a very recent CNN report on our current weather conditions

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/06/us/polar-vortex-explained/.  And just in case you doubt the fact-checkers there, here is another article from Time magazine: http://science.time.com/2014/01/06/climate-change-driving-cold-weather/.  As to it being historic, well I certainly was not on the planet in 1921, and I am pretty sure my parents were either too young, or not born yet.  Read this from the New York Times to get the lowdown on how newsworthy our current freeze is: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/07/nyregion/in-new-york-temperatures-fall-far-fast.html?hpw&rref=nyregion

So, where is the connection?  If you accept that Climate Change is happening, (and though Global Warming is sometimes denigrated as a liberal talking point it exists and Is part of the problem) - what does it have to do with gardening?

I date myself when I say I recall the first Earth Day. We picked up trash and played a lot of Frisbee during school hours.  But the idea did take hold and now we do, annually, do our part for Ecology.  I just don’t understand why we only care about it for the one day.  

Green, Sustainability, Eco- have been somewhat diminished by being adopted into our lingo and used as marketing tools.  Here is a (new to me) portion of the EPA site dedicated to Climate Change. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/home.html.

Read it and you will notice number 7, “Be Green In Your Yard.” 

So I went in search of the GreenScapes portion of the site.  Sadly, the EPA no longer updates it, but it exists: http://www.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/tools/greenscapes/.  Once there, I looked at GreenScapes for Homeowners: http://www.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/tools/greenscapes/owners.htm .   The cynic in me said, “Oh surely this is just another marketing ploy using the term “green.”  But really, it is not.  In fact, there is very little there that I can argue with. 

I wish they had emphasized the use of Native Plants plants more. But I certainly agree with most of the recommendations: 

"You can invite birds, butterflies and other wildlife into your yard, protect streams and fish, and make a more attractive landscape.

  • Consider planting native trees and plants, especially ones with berries, fruit and flowers.
  • Plant in layers (ground cover, shrubs, and trees) so your landscape is like the forest.
  • Don’t plant invasive species—check with your local Cooperative Extension Office for a list of invasive “;noxious weeds.”
  • Minimize potential harm to birds, beneficial insects, and fish by using pesticides only when necessary and using them properly. Read the label and follow instructions carefully whenever you use a pesticide.
  • Provide a bird bath or other small water source. Make sure you change the water every couple of days so your bird bath doesn’t become a mosquito breeding ground.
  • Leave wild “buffer” areas of native plants along ravines, streams, shorelines and fencelines."


These are all things I would advise a Native Gardener to do.  And, this from our Government no less !  (yes they did bring us Duck & Cover and How to Build a Home Fallout Shelter in the late 50’s, but that was then, this is now!) 

So, please, consider how you feel today.  Look back on the last few years and what we have experienced weather-wise, and make the connection.  But do not “Do Nature” once a year.  Take a (polar) plunge and dedicate a portion of your yard, or if you insist, landscape, to being a wild buffer zone along the fenceline. By doing that, you are doing a small part for Nature and our climate, daily. 

I owe the term Swoopy Thing, to a friend who lives Way Up North in the Midwest on one of the Great Lakes. She knows her words and weather, and deserves a hat-tip.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

tj January 08, 2014 at 10:46 AM
I didnt think it would be that bad, but its pretty horrible out....
Denise Meehan January 08, 2014 at 08:22 PM
It has been awful, makes 19 degrees feel balmy in comparison! Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it! I hope my copy of "The Climate Conscious Gardener" by folks at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden arrives soon. http://www.bbg.org/gardening/handbook/climate_conscious

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