Making lawns into gardens, you too can enjoy beauty and help the environment!

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
January 2017

Happy New Year!

The October 2016 Peligram Hoot described some great efforts to convert sod, grass, or turf into native gardens for birds and butterflies that require less fertilizer and herbicide.  At our November 12th Open House, we officially opened up a new trail connecting the north Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (North ORCA) with the south side of Oslo Road (South ORCA).  Also at the open house we had three excellent speakers: Wendy Swindell, Indian River County Conservation lands Program, spoke on Our county’s conservation lands; Nickie Munroe, Indian River County Environmental Horticulture Agent, University of Florida IFAS talked about the Master Gardeners and Florida Friendly Certification; and Robin Pelensky, ASLA, Landscape Architect, Surlaterre Landscape Architecture covered Rain Gardens and saving the Lagoon. One major theme of the three talks was reducing the use of lawn fertilizers and herbicides and help save the Indian River Lagoon from pollution.  A suggestion was made to rename the “Rain Gardens” as “Lagoon Gardens” as these gardens will help save the Lagoon.

Thanks for Robin’s advice and her and George Glenn, Jr.’s. labor, along with the Garden Club of Indian River County providing native plants and mulch from DIGG Gardens, we have started the native plant landscaping in front of the Audubon House.  We will be adding more plants to provide a “Homeowner Friendly Garden” that can compete in attractiveness with nonnative gardens and lawns in Indian River County and much more likely to attract butterflies and birds and help the Lagoon.  

Ken Gonyo, Richard Baker, & Wendy Swindell at the opening of the south ORCA connector trail. Photo: Donna Halleran

Moreover, Ken Gonyo has started a beautiful butterfly garden with 29.species of native plants that have already attracted eight species of butterflies (e.g. Monarch, Julia, 3 species of skippers, Zebra Longwing, Great Southern White).  The plants were purchased in part with funds provided by FPL and the efforts of Florette Braun. Ken also donated an elegant solar water fountain to the garden for birds.  Many have helped plant and weed, but Felicity Rask and Diane Humann have expressed interested in keeping the garden going.  Ken is also planning a scrub garden next to the south side of the Audubon House.

In addition, we will start planning for the Lagoon Gardens in the Audubon House dry retention area as a demonstration project and a model for homeowners.  At the Audubon House, Nickie will also be offering Florida Friendly Landscaping Workshops January 11th at 12-1:30 pm every other week. She plans to begin “Snowbird Gardening” next November.

Many thanks to Michael Estabrook who volunteered and put our well water system underground, which will be use to start the Lagoon Gardens.  He also has started making a huge dent in removing the exotic air potato vine.  

Preserving and learning about our county’s conservation lands is also important to protecting the Lagoon.  Starting on February 11th, PIAS is collaborating again with our neighbor the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, University of Florida, to sponsor another series of six free Volunteer Stewardship & Environmental Education Classes. Six Saturday classes from 1:30-4:30 pm (February 12, 18, 25, March 4, 11, 18) taught by dynamic guest speakers who are experts in their fields will present our local unique natural habitats and associated flora and fauna.  Each class will have a classroom segment of interactive lectures followed by outside field excursions relating to the classroom topics. Those who have taken the class before are also welcome to attend and assist with the course. We are planning to follow the Volunteer classes with workshops on related subjects. 

To sign up for the Volunteer Stewardship & Environmental Education Class (limited to 25 persons) and/or volunteer for and be a part of the other projects, please call our office at 772-567-3520.  The Beginning Birding Course has been filled.

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