After more than five years of planning and construction, Baltimore County will plant 93 native shade trees this fall to complete the last phase of Radebaugh Park.
“The trees will contribute to the beauty and pleasure experienced by people who use the park. As the trees grow, they will provide shade and cooling breezes,” said Carol Newill, a Green Towson Alliance member who helped lead the group’s efforts on the park.
The park, in Towson’s Aigburth Manor neighborhood, was designed by the alliance to accommodate people of all ages and physical abilities in neighborhoods around Knollwood, Towson Manor Village, Wiltondale, and downtown Towson, said Newill.
Families are already using the park, but a formal ribbon cutting to celebrate its completion will be delayed until spring to plant the additional trees, according to Baltimore County Councilman David Marks.
The trees are being planted as part of the county’s Urban Tree Expansion Program, which is part of the state’s Watershed Implementation Plan, an effort to reach pollution reduction goals for improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.
“The trees will take up and absorb more of the rain from the heavier storms we are experiencing and as the trees grow, they will capture more of the particulate air pollution that we have in our area,” Newill said.
The trees are counted toward credit with the state for cleaning up streams and the Chesapeake Bay, she said.
Marks, a Republican who represents Towson, said he is “very” proud of the park and the process to get the project finished.
“It’s taken about five years to get this park finished,” he said. “Eastern Towson hasn’t added any new parks since the 1990s, so it provides a bit of a green oasis in a very densely populated community.”
Marks has previously stated that working on the project is one of his proudest accomplishments during his council tenure.
The park has been in the works since 2015, when the Radebaugh family, which owned Radebaugh Florist & Greenhouses, sold the land to the county under the condition that it would become a park.
“They preferred to be good neighbors despite having an offer from a developer who wanted to construct 19 townhomes,” said Newill.
Paul Hartman, a longtime Towson community advocate, has praised the family in the past, saying more town houses would have created overcrowding in the area.
County officials announced in June 2015 that they would work to build the park after an environmental study found no problems that would prevent purchase of the property, which was comprised of greenhouses.
In November 2016, the county paid $1.1 million to build a park on the 2.4-acre parcel. The money came from Program Open Space, a state land preservation program funded by real estate transfer taxes.
In 2019, the park entered the second phase of construction, which involved grading the land into two tiers, laying down topsoil and grass, and removing industrial materials such as concrete and piping.
Newill, who is a physician with interests in public health and community wellness, said Green Towson Alliance has recruited an engineer, graphic designer, elementary school teacher, accountant, commercial photographer and various architects to help create the park over the years.
“We designed the park, using input from a large community input meeting we held in 2016 at the church on Burke Avenue nearby and the expertise of the members of our GTA work group — then two of us have met many times over the years with county leaders,” she said.
Today, the park property preserves open space in a dense part of Towson while providing residents another option when they’re looking for a place for picnics, walking and leisurely activities, said Marks.
Newill believes the addition of the trees will encourage children and adults to spend more time outdoors at the park, especially during the hot summers.
“We at GTA are delighted that the trees will be planted this fall. We will need volunteers to help keep the new trees properly watered during their first two growing seasons and in future years during droughts,” Newill said.
I tried to put these nine items into what-I-despise-most order but I found that kind of ranking simply too difficult. Bottled water or coffee pods? That’s a tough call, especially since Nestlé peddles both.
However, I’m leaning toward coffee pods. Not only do they create obscene amounts of waste—Keurig alone sold nearly 10 billion packs of pods in 2014—they also represent the Wall·E-fication of our society. Will every foodstuff eventually be pre-measured and pre-packaged for the specially designed machines that prepare it for us? Personally, I enjoy the ritual of brewing coffee in the morning—or tea. But you can now buy tea pods as well, surely a sign of the end-times.
Convenience has, at the very least, exacerbated—if not created—our waste crisis. Beginning in the 50s and 60s, consumer products companies marketed their wares—disposable dishes, disposable cutlery, disposable plastic wrap and eventually disposable everything—as time-saving lifesavers. As these companies and their products seduced and hooked us, they simultaneously chiseled away at our life-skills toolkit, leaving us more dependent on so-called disposable materials. (The term “disposable” suggests an item is “able” to be “disposed” of but the items must go somewhere in the environment.)
Yes, some coffee pods can be recycled. Nespresso manufactures its pods out of aluminum. Other brands produce pods consisting of plastic and aluminum. Theoretically, anything can be recycled if we throw enough money and specialized, outrageously expensive, heavy equipment at it. That doesn’t mean it will be recycled. And besides, recycling is a last resort. We can’t recycle our way out of our garbage crisis. Corporations produce more than our systems can possibly handle.
1. Plastic wrap
Well before I went plastic-free, I rarely bought plastic wrap. Trash aside, do we want our food to touch this stuff?
Unfortunately, most [plastic wraps] are now made with low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC). (The exceptions are wraps used in catering and professional kitchens.) LDPE and PVDC don’t adhere as well as plastic wraps made with PVC, but more worrying is the fact that LDPE may contain diethylhexyl adipate (DEHA), another potential endocrine disruptor that has been linked to breast cancer in women and low sperm counts in men. — Dr. Weil
Place a plate over a bowl of leftovers to cover them. Or store leftovers—and all kinds of food—in glass jars. Glass offers the additional benefit of a clear view of the food you have on hand. If you can see it, you’ll more likely eat it before it heads south.
2. Plastic baggies
Again, do you want plastic coming into contact with your food?
Yes, plastic baggies make packing lunches convenient but you can find many alternatives. And the cost of cheap baggies does eventually add up. On Amazon, with its rock-bottom prices, 90 Ziploc sandwich bags cost around $9. Ten cents a bag may not sound like much but if you pack lunches for a couple of kids and use a couple of baggies per kid, you’ll go through these in a couple of months. Isn’t Jeff Bezos wealthy enough?!
Pre-Covid, when I still worked in an office, I packed my lunches in glass jars. For small children, I don’t suggest packing lunches this way. Use metal lunch containers such as LunchBots or wrap up sandwiches in a large napkin, Furoshiki style.
3. Teflon anything
Back when my daughter MK wrote her blog The Plastic-Free Chef, a representative from Dupont once left a comment on a popcorn post, in which MK had slammed PFAS-treated microwave popcorn bags. (PFAS—also known as forever chemicals—render the bags grease-proof.) The condescending rep wrote about the virtues of Teflon at length, saying she “understood” my daughter’s supposed confusion. “You have arrived, MKat,” I told her.
I banned from my kitchen not only bottled water but also other bottled drinks such as soda and juice. In addition to the plastic waste these drinks generate, most of them are unhealthy, filled with sugar and, like heavy bottled water, travel many miles to reach the store.
Coffee brewed in a French press or pour-over coffee maker is very simple.
Teabags just about send me over the edge. Food manufacturers can charge only so much for a commodity like a teabag. So they have “improved” paper teabags by creating silk-like bags in order to justify charging a premium for them.
Loose leaf tea brewed in a teapot and strained out.
7. Paper towels
My mother—who at 89 grew up without paper towels—wonders how I live without them. Let me preface the following rant with the admission that my research into paper towel manufacture comes from the sawmill and paper mill passages of Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day?However, I think I can safely claim that just some of the steps in the life-cycle of a paper towel include:
Chop down trees
Transport logs to the sawmill
Harvest scrap lumber from logs cut into rough boards
Transport scrap lumber to the paper mill
Run scrap lumber through the chipper
Add a bunch of water and chemicals to the wood chips to make wood pulp
Run the pulp across a bunch of screens to form paper towels
Bundle the long sheets into rolls of paper towels
Shrink wrap the rolls of paper towels in plastic
Transport the paper towels to the warehouse
Transport the paper towels to the store
Drive to the store to buy paper towels
Unwrap the plastic and throw it out or into the recycling bin because you’re in denial that that kind of flimsy plastic can actually be recycled
Use the paper towel once
Toss the soiled paper towel into the garbage
Argue with your partner or kids about who should take out the garbage
Lug your garbage to the curb because you lost
Repeat until the last tree falls
I have a lifetime supply of cotton rags I cut out of my kids’ old t-shirts. Yes, some nasty manufacturing processes went into the production of said t-shirts but I will use these rags for years. If you have the crafty gene, you could make some unpaper towels.
8. Paper napkins
I imagine people buy more paper towels than paper napkins—or use paper towels as napkins—but these too have easy replacements, unlike bathroom tissue. Don’t worry, I won’t include bathroom tissue on this list. However, regarding wipes for wee-wee, as clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology Lauren F Streicher, MD, told The Guardian last year,
People urinated long before toilet paper became available. There are zero health concerns with this … people have urine on their underwear all the time.”
Cloth napkins make eating more appetizing. They will also save you money over time, as will all of the suggestions on this list. Yes, you must wash them—I wait until ours actually appear soiled, usually after a few uses—but they take up very little space in the washing machine.
9. Highly processed food
Of everything on the list, highly processed food will require the most effort to replace. The Western diet—which the majority of us eat—consists of these products, almost always packaged in shiny plastic. It’s convenient but not healthy for us or the planet.
Cook real food. Yes, home-cooked meals require time to prepare but they taste better than highly processed food, will improve your health and likely save you money. You need not cook anything elaborate. For time-saving ideas, read my previous newsletter, “How to Save up to 5 Hours a Week in the Kitchen.”
Green Towson Alliance has sent this letter to the Baltimore County Councilmanic Redistricting Commission
August 20, 2021
The Councilmanic Redistricting Commission
400 Washington Avenue
Towson, MD 21204
Dear Councilmanic Redistricting Commission,
The Green Towson Alliance unites Towson area environmentalists to achieve a greener, healthier, more beautiful community through collaboration and activism.We represent citizens in the greater Towson area who identify Towson as their downtown center.
We are writing you today to express our support for a single councilmanic district more closely resembling our own organization’s boundaries for Towson. This area is currently divided among four councilmanic districts. The urban center of Towson and its dense surrounding neighborhoods have unique concerns with regards to sustainable land use that are very different from the more suburban and rural areas which currently share the districts with Towson. Uniting the Towson neighborhoods in one district will give our citizens a more cohesive voice to address our unique environmental challenges such as flooding, overburdened sanitary sewers and the heat island effect.
The Charter of Baltimore County calls for councilmanic districts that are compact, contiguous, and in which due regard is given to natural, geographic and community boundaries. Please restore these qualities to the Towson district.
We appreciate your consideration of our request.
John Alexander, Roger Gookin, Ray Heil, Patty Mochel, Beth Miller, Dr. Carol Newill, and Lauren Stranahan
The Executive Committee of the Green Towson Alliance
Searing heat waves, recurring downpours, and the news that insect and bird populations are declining precipitously all indicate that the climate crisis has already crossed our doorstep. While our government works out local, national, and global solutions, there are many proactive things we can do in our own yards.
Growing native plants and trees is a relatively simple act that could have a significant positive impact on our environment. Many people don’t realize that 90% of the insects that live in our neighborhoods can only digest the plants that they have co-evolved with for thousands of years, as documented by University of Delaware entomologist Douglas Tallamy. The birds that we love to see in our communities eat insects and raise their young almost exclusively on insects.
The simple fact is that insects are a vital part of the local food web. No insects – no baby birds. Other wildlife would be affected as well: insects are a significant protein source for frogs, snakes, chipmunks, fox, even bears.
Growing native trees and plants is important because they are environmental powerhouses in our yards. An oak tree, for example, is a host for more than 500 species of butterflies and moths. The non-native Crape Myrtle supports only 10 butterflies or moths. Baltimore, it’s obvious there is a problem when crape myrtles or nonnative nandina shrubs are ubiquitous in block after block of the city and suburban landscape.
This summer, Green Towson Alliance sponsored a Native Garden Contest. We were amazed not only by the beautiful native gardens that people are growing, but by the commitment shown by gardeners to supporting our ecosystem by growing native plants. And they’re not alone in wanting to support the ecosystem. Nearly 450 people participated in an online vote to choose the winners of the contest. That’s a lot of votes – and it indicates that people are hungry to learn about growing native plants and supporting our ecosystem.
The next step is for the local garden centers and landscape services to step up and do their part. Finding native plants and trees are not easy right now. It’s time for local businesses to offer native plants and trees, and it’s time for all of us to plant some natives in our yards.
The Green Towson Alliance concluded its inaugural 2021 Native Garden Contest by announcing winners on July 26.
The contest included 23 participants with entries consisting of a single garden bed, an entire yard, or a community plot. Anyone who lives in Towson was eligible to be in the contest, according to GTA’s website.
Voting for the competition was open to the Towson community, with 12 finalists in the categories of community garden, emerging garden, small yard garden and large yard garden. A “special recognition” category for excellence was also announced with the winners.
The winner of the community garden award is Burkleigh Square, a community garden featuring an area for barbecues and picnics, a walking path, play area and vegetable garden. Last year, the park added a rain garden which addressed one area with flooding issues, according to GTA’s website. The improvements were organized by Melanie Hotham and Tracey Marcantoni, with help from the community.
Karen Williams of Lock Raven Village is the winner of the emerging garden category.
“I was surprised because I thought that the other contestants did a really good job showing off their garden and the competition seemed pretty stiff,” she said.
Williams’ created a sloping garden with native plants while she was stuck at home during the start of the pandemic.
“It’s only been about a year and a half or two years of work specifically trying to grow plants that are native and it’s been a really cool experience and I’ve enjoyed participating in the contest,” she said.
The emerging garden category was for participants who just started a native garden, she said. Williams’ garden also has two bird baths, and a fountain that she made last summer.
“I was spending so much more time in my backyard just like everyone and after noticing the bugs and the bees — I wanted to learn how to attract more of them,” she said. “The best way to do that is to plant the things that they like to eat so it just kind of snowballed from there.”
Craig Lammes and Kara Silber Lammes of the Rodgers Forge community are winners of the small garden category.
Their submission was a hillside native garden loaded with flowering plants and the rest of the property uniquely has no grass, according to Craig Lammes.
“When we moved into our house, it had a few traditional plants — so we had a blank canvas to work with. Kara had a strong imperative, no grass!” he said. “After about eight years, we have something growing out of nearly every square foot of our [yard]— front to back. It’s been all native species for years now.”
The couple originally heard about the contest through one of their neighbors and was “excited” to hear of the victory.
“Over the last few years, we’ve become interested in participating with the larger community of native plant gardeners,” he said. “So this was perfect — winning is just sort of a nice cherry on top.”’
Ashley Reinhart of the Greenbier neighborhood is the winner of the large garden category.
For six years Reinhart has worked on her native garden, primarily in the growing season. She defined gardening as a “labor of love.”
“I’m a schoolteacher, so I don’t get much time in it during the school year but during the summer is usually when I’m outside every day in it,” she said.
Reinhart’s garden is designed to absorb water in her hilly community by utilizing terrace levels, a rain garden, yard swells, rain barrels, and permeable walkways.
“We have water from uphill that we get so we had to design our yard to absorb runoff, prevent erosion, and half of our property has a downward slope, so we try to prevent runoff for our neighbors as well,” she said.
A special recognition for excellence was awarded to Judith Fulton of Ruxton, who gardens in and outside of her woodland neighborhood.
“We are astonished and excited to see how many people in Towson are creating beautiful native gardens,” said Patty Mochel of GTA.
GTA was created in 2015 by residents from neighborhoods in and around Towson who wanted to create a greener, healthier and more beautiful community. The goal of the contest is educating and encouraging the public to take the initiative to grow native plants and trees in their yards in an effort to support the environment.
“I think it’s awesome just for bringing attention to native plants and just creating public awareness, so I’m totally excited about it for that reason and I hope they continue it in future years,” Reinhart said.
According to GTA’s website, the Native Garden Contest will continue next year with plans to expand the competition to include a business category. The idea was inspired by Carl Gold, an owner of a downtown Towson business, who planted a variety of native plants outside his office.
I start the day very early at Hammerman Beach. Years ago, an agreement was reached to allow long distance swimmers to train outside the ropes before the beaches open for public use. My cure for Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) begins, however, before I set foot in the water. I glance down and see fern moss near the base of the osprey nest in the parking lot. Emerald cushions with spores ready to explode with new single cell life cover the ground, inches away from asphalt. To the left a doe drinks from a vernal pool until she is startled by a car door closing.
I quickly swim out to the rope (those first few moments can be chilly especially early in the season) duck under it and head out in the direction of the Bay parallel to the shore. As I swim in the early diffused light from pier to pier (five hundred yards from the first pier to the last) my head turns to the right to catch a breath and a great blue heron is just a few feet away, patiently waiting for his breakfast to appear. Heading to the next pier and reveling in a good chop that forces me to practice bilateral breathing, a shadow appears on the water and I quickly look up – it’s an osprey grasping what looks like a channel catfish in her talons as she heads back to the nest at the parking lot. Submerged aquatic vegetation (sign of a healthy river) occasionally entangles my arms but all I have to do is relax my stroke and it slips away. On the return trip heading toward the railroad tracks, I hear beautiful singing in Spanish. It is a church group, ministers dressed in long white (and now soaking wet) robes, performing baptisms in the river. By now the sky is a cerulean shade and more great blue herons have left their rookery on the far side of the river to salute the newly baptized.
After getting my swim yardage in, I wheel my kayak to the farthest beach, put on my lifejacket and slip in to the river, this time on top. Close attention is necessary at the beginning as there is often a good shore breeze which creates that glorious chop. Once I get away from the shore it is easier to paddle as there is no backwash from the shore. As I head towards Dundee Creek, I sometimes lose count of how many eagles I see. Seemingly stoic and unperturbed by my ripples in the water they gaze down at me giving me the gift of getting close enough to see their eyes. If I’m really lucky some red winged blackbirds will pop up from the marsh and yell at me for disturbing them. When the crabs are running, I take care not to foul any trap lines – I’m always impressed how the crabbers keep them from tangling.
This has been a year unlike any other in my six decades. The isolation, the loss of contact with what Jane Brody refers to as consequential strangers, much less dear friends and family has been numbing. The sky, the River, the land and their inhabitants have been consistent reminders that not only does life go on, but it must go on. Eastern Baltimore County teems with life seen and unseen. We have an obligation to protect it.
Last summer when Covid locked us all down, the freedom to swim and kayak was sanity saving. All I had to do was open my eyes to appreciate the beauty all around me. This freedom is not guaranteed to last. If you have ever wondered what you can do to help, I have a modest proposal. Become a Maryland Master Naturalist!
The Maryland Master Naturalist (MMN) program is run by the University of Maryland Extension Service. It provides access to world class scientists who train participants to be citizen scientists who can share their love of the natural world with others. It explains exactly why the preservation and protection of our natural resources is so important.
I’ve wanted to take the MMN classes for years but they were never offered close enough to home or at workable times. One Covid silver lining was the announcement that virtual classes would be available. I leaped at this opportunity and by the time you read this (assuming I pass the exam) I’ll be a Master Naturalist trainee working hard on stewardship and spreading the word about the need to preserve it for future generations. Those of us fortunate enough to have discovered Eastern Baltimore County should share our love with others. The more folks who see this beauty the more likely we are to recruit people to preserve what we have. Climate change is no longer debatable and sea level rise is here to stay. I don’t know what the future of the C. P. Crane power generating plant is, but I know it’s future impacts all of Eastern Baltimore County including Marshy Point and Gunpowder Falls State Park, not to mention the health and safety of all Baltimore County residents. It’s truly jarring to round the tip of the marsh heading from Hammerman to Dundee and suddenly see the twin barbershop towers of the plant seconds after glimpsing an osprey nest filled with chicks.
I can’t wait to get back in and on the water with my new found knowledge and appreciation of what we have. And if you are in the Methuselah age group like me (actually you only have to be 62), the DNR will sell you a Golden Age Pass for $10.00 and you get in any state park for free for life. I hope to see you on, in or around the water.
3.5 Tons of Trash were Cleaned from Towson Streams in April and May
Despite the pandemic, 225 Towson residents came out to help clean trash and debris out of Towson neighborhood streams this past April and May. These volunteers joined in the 16 stream clean-ups that Green Towson Alliance coordinated as part of Project Clean Stream with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
Volunteers waded into the tributaries of the Herring Run and Jones Falls streams in Towson neighborhoods and pulled out 6,915 pounds of trash – including a life vest, lawn chairs, a Giant Food shopping cart, a car bumper, orange plastic fencing, a pickup truck load of pressure-treated wood, and several long,rusting pipes. They bundled all this trash into bags or vehicles and took it to the County landfill. Recyclables were also bagged and taken to the Baltimore County Recycling Center.
In addition, volunteers removed invasive vines and plants from areas in Riderwood and Idlewylde, as well as a third of a dumpster full of invasive multiflora rose and other invasive plants from Ridgely Manor Park.
The people who came out to clean the streams included families with children, Girl Scout Troops 1152 and 1417, Towson University students, and neighbors who were glad for the chance to clean the junk out of the local streams in their communities.
“We had just started the stream clean-up at Radebaugh Park when a group of 12 people – including two Moms with their children – literally ran up and asked to join the stream clean-up”, said Ray Heil, leader of the stream cleanup at Radebaugh Park. “They had heard from their neighbors that GTA was cleaning up the stream, and wanted to volunteer.”
Several officials came to help out, including State Delegate Cathi Forbes, County Councilman David Marks (with his 6th grade daughter), and the County Executive’s District 5 liaison, Amanda Carr.
Since its inception in 2015, Green Towson Alliance has cleaned out nearly 16 tons oftrash from local streams through these annual stream clean-ups. GTA members Dr. Carol Newill and Lauren Stranahan coordinated this year’s stream clean-ups.
“We were delighted that so many people came out to help despite the pandemic,” said Dr. Newill. “We followed COVID precautions: people worked in their own family groups or pods, and everyone wore masks. I think everyone enjoyed their morning in the sunshine and fresh air, helping to keep our environment clean.”
Notice the yellow warning signs placed on a lawn after a professional lawn care treatment.
By Arthur Oslund
Ask your lawn care provider for a list of all chemicals put on your lawn during the entire year. Look the chemicals up on the Internet searching for effects on children and pets.
The commonly used lawn herbicides like 2-4-D and 2-4-5-T are essentially plant-growth hormones. They cause the plant to “grow itself to death.” That is why you see the dandelions turn upside down after being sprayed with 2-4-D or other similar chemicals. 2-4-D is one of the two main chemicals used in Agent Orange in Vietnam. Pets, children, and adults exposing bare skin (feet or hands) to lawns treated with chemicals risk dangerous side effects.
A professional dog trainer said that many people attribute cancer in dogs to exposure to lawn care chemicals. Your dog or cat could walk through lawn care chemicals and later lick its feet. The chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and be tracked into the house from a treated lawn. While treating lawns, the chemicals can be inadvertently sprayed onto sidewalks or relocated by rain. The fumes are also dangerous. Many of the chemicals are known to accumulate in the body and are known to cause cancer.
An internet search finds many articles on this subject:
Please help to make everyone aware of the potential dangers of lawn care chemicals and to take appropriate action to protect children, pets, and of course, adults.
A word about lawn weeds
The weeds are green are they not? They can also contribute to food for birds, rabbits, bees, etc. I like the dandelions’ yellow flowers and call them “Spring Mums”; they mostly bloom only for a few weeks in the spring. If you don’t like the dandelion flowers then just mow them. Clover not only produces food for wildlife, but the flowers also give a pleasant scent. Clover adds nitrogen to the soil that helps the grass thrive. In the past, clover seed was sometimes added to commercial grass seed. Other weeds have beneficial properties. Do we really need a perfect weed-free lawn?
How can I maintain a reasonably attractive lawn without using chemicals?
Healthy grass will tend to choke out or at least reduce the number of most weeds. In this part of the country, the soil is very likely to be acidic and most grass species do well in acidic soil. I apply a light dose of lime and lawn fertilizer every two or three years using a handheld spreader. Of course, increased fertilizing will probably result in increased mowing frequency. Keep the height of cut at least 2 ½ inches to give the grass a better chance to “smother” the weeds by reducing the sunlight going to the weeds. Watering in dry weather is good but there is no need to overdo it. Grass develops a very fibrous root system that also helps choke out the weeds.
Opt out of mosquito spraying
A few years ago, I went on a fishing trip to a wilderness area in central Ontario, Canada. It was so remote that we heard wolves howling at night and saw bears and northern lights. I took mosquito repellent but to my surprise, I did not need it. The lodge owner said that the area had never been sprayed and that he had cataloged over 40 different species of dragonflies. Some of the dragonflies were iridescent and very beautiful blue, red and green. SkinSoSoft is a very safe repellent that you can get from Avon.
Insecticides will kill predatory insects like Dragonflies that have mosquitoes as their primary food source. The Mosquitoes have a much shorter reproductive cycle than the predators and you will end up with more Mosquitoes than before. That is not to mention killing beneficial insects like honey bees and beautiful butterflies. Insect eating birds and bats are also vulnerable. Some of the insecticides are extremely deadly to humans and some are systemic on the plants and the nectar from the flowers of sprayed plants will kill bees.
I am so happy that spring is here! I’m enjoying seeing new signs of life emerging daily.
Anneslie resident Beth Miller invited me to come see her woodland garden and learn a bit about native plants (defined as plants that were here before European colonization).
Last year, Miller replaced her front lawn with native plants, which support hundreds of species of insects, moths, butterflies and caterpillars — a great food source for birds (incidentally, doves are nesting in her trees).
Some of the many natives in Miller’s yard include: American holly; tulip poplar; goldenrod; serviceberry trees; mountain mint; oak leaf hydrangea; celandine poppy; and willow oak (a “keystone species” that hosts 500 kinds of moths and butterflies).
“It all makes sense when you know,” Miller said, of choosing native plants over non-native or invasive plants. “Natives don’t require chemicals, they have better roots, are more drought resistant, don’t need to be fertilized. They draw insects, that draw birds.”
She raked the fall leaves into the garden beds, creating a safe haven for overwintering butterflies.
As I toured the space, I learned how newly awakened spring ephemerals, such as blood root, are an important food source for ground bees. Ants and woodland mice carry the seeds away, and new growth spreads.
I learned that even some plants we might discard as weeds have essential roles in the ecosystem.
Green Towson Alliance is keen to find more yards like Miller’s in our community.
GTA has just announced the area’s first Native Garden Contest. Anyone who lives in Towson and incorporates native plants, trees, shrubs or grasses in their yard is encouraged to enter. Entries may be a single garden bed, an entire yard or a community plot.
Photos can be uploaded from June 14 to July 16. GTA’s Homegrown National Park Workgroup will select semifinalists, then open online voting to the community. Winners will be announced on July 26.
Patty Mochel of GTA hopes the contest will inspire public interest in native plants and their importance to the environment.
“Insects and birds can’t keep declining or the next era will really be daunting,” Mochel said. “Most insects [90% of them] can eat only the leaves of native plants.
“Virtually all birds must feed insects to their fledglings. This is why native plants are a vital link to the food webs that support our local ecosystems — the pollinators, butterflies, moths, birds, and wildlife that share our communities. In this contest, Green Towson Alliance will celebrate our neighborhood gardens and yards that contribute to the health of our local ecosystems and mitigate the effects of climate change.”
GTA is redefining what a thriving and meaningful garden space looks like. It can be pretty, peaceful and calming, but even more so it’s about function, harmony and healing.
“When combined, our yards become a giant nature park, and together we can restore the ecosystem,” Mochel said.
The Green Towson Alliance is holding a native garden contest this spring and early summer. Folks who live in a Towson community and consider Towson to be their downtown are welcome to enter the contest. Entries can be a specific garden bed, or an entire yard that includes native trees, shrubs, plants, and grasses. Community gardens can also be entered in the contest.
Why native plants? Native plants are defined as plants and trees that have been growing in our region since before the European colonization. Research has found that most insects can only ingest plants that they have co-evolved with for thousands of years. Most butterflies and moths can lay eggs only on specific plants that they have co-evolved with. Caterpillars that hatch from those eggs, and other insects, are vital food for songbirds, especially when they are nesting. Nearly all birds feed insects to their fledglings. No insects, no baby birds!
The Native Garden Contest will celebrate the Towson gardens and yards that support the health of our local ecosystems. More information on the contest and the importance of growing native trees and plants in your yard can be found at nativegardencontest.com.
The Green Towson Alliance is a group of Towson area residents who care deeply about our natural world and are working to mitigate the effects of climate change. We have planted hundreds of trees, cleared out tons of trash from local streams, restored woodlands and parks by removing invasive vines that are strangling beautiful mature trees, and continue to advocate for good environmental policy in Baltimore County. This is our sixth year of service to our community and our environment.
The Native Garden Contest was born from the imaginations of members of the GTA Homegrown National Park Workgroup. We are inspired by a national project to restore our ecosystems. The purpose of this contest is to encourage and celebrate Towson gardeners who incorporate native trees, shrubs, and plants in their landscapes. Together, we can do our part to protect and sustain the natural environment for our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, and all we love, including the non-human species who share our communities.