On Sunday, September 13, dozens of Westchester gardens will be open to the public to demonstrate how homeowners and land managers can support pollinators and encourage biodiversity in our own backyards.

Organized by the sustainable gardening non-profit Healthy Yards and Bedford 2030, the Westchester Pollinator Garden Tour is designed to encourage residents to join in Climate Action Now by implementing healthy yard practices that will drive positive environmental change in our community.  Landscaping practices that improve the health of land and soil can draw carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground. Healthy land practices also include using less fossil fuels by mowing less and using electric equipment. 

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn from experts about maintaining landscapes without the use of toxins, without gas burning equipment, and with the use of native plants. At each of the public properties and some of the private ones, experienced gardeners will be available to answer questions.

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“The point of this tour is not to showcase immaculately manicured gardens,” explains Healthy Yards co-founder Filippine Hoogland. “Rather, it is to showcase gardens and meadows that support pollinators and biodiversity, have a small carbon footprint, and generally utilize earth-friendly landscaping techniques.”

The Garden Tour will feature public gardens and preserves, and some may not look aesthetically pleasing in the conventional sense, Hoogland explains.  But, they may offer another type of beauty, in the form of visitors like birds and butterflies.  Additionally, some of the gardens will show what is possible in areas with serious deer impact. The tour will include  very small gardens, which, in spite of their size, can offer a valuable food source for pollinators and other beneficial insects

The tour will also feature the renowned Pound Ridge native plant garden created by naturalist Sara Stein and lovingly preserved by owners Ellen and James Best. Another residential sight is Farmer’s Garden, also in Pound Ridge, natural land made mostly of herbs and perennials, that acts as a bee apiary.

“By showcasing a range of gardens,” Hoogland continues, “we hope visitors will understand how the conventional lawn-centric backyards can switch to more sustainable landscaping practices, without a huge investment, and be developed into areas that support pollinators and birds.” 

More than 50  properties from tiny postage stamp parcels, storefronts or window boxes, to land trust properties, municipal gardens and large estates will be open that day.  Westchester Land Trust’s pop up pollinator display will be at the Pine Croft Meadow and Karalyn Lamb of the Native Plant Center will be there to provide information.

Bedford 2020 is promoting the event as a lead up to its Climate Week activities as the organization relaunches with new goals, a new plan, and new energy as Bedford 2030.

“Cleaner, healthier landscaping is a critical aspect of the community’s environmental impact,” explains Ellen Calves of Bedford 2030. “Our yards are a great place to reduce our carbon footprint, and (like many of the carbon reducing measures we recommend), healthy yard practices also bring savings, health benefits, and joy from the increase in pollinators, butterflies and birds.”

The full list of gardens can be accessed at https://www.healthyyards.org/tour/.

The gardens will be open either in the morning (10am-1pm) or the afternoon (1-4pm) and attendees must follow COVID-19 restrictions by wearing a mask and social distancing.

Some private residents do not have a lot of parking spaces, so visitors are asked to please be patient and wait for a spot, or if no parking, go to another garden. Visitors will be reminded that they are attending at their own risk and during the tour, owners may close their yard whenever they feel that safety can not be maintained. Closings will be listed on the tour map on the website.

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Healthy Yards is an initiative run by volunteers to increase awareness and provide support for healthy landscaping practices. The organization collaborates with partners throughout our region, coordinates Westchester Pollinators, and has a national social media following. For more information visit www.healthyyards.org

Bedford 2020 is relaunching in September as Bedford 2030: Climate Action Now with a plan to reduce community wide greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2030 and opportunities for everyone to be involved in building a healthier future.  Bedford 2030 encourages the entire community to join in the relaunch festivities including the Garden Tour and virtual and in-person activities during Climate Week September 21-27. New website coming soon at www.bedford2030.org