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Vineyard Lawns

When the Boland’s decided to build their house in a pitch pine forest they were determined to use the existing gravel sand with peat that surrounded the foundation. Rather than replace it with top soil they brought in, they kept the native soil  to capitalize on the microbes that are part of the natural soil ecology, including mycorhizae that support native plant growth.. In addition to the use of the Cape Cod drought tolerant lawn mix which they got at SBS, they also included native shrubs like huckleberry and high bush blueberries along with lots of native flowering plants in and around their yard. As the native plant network reestablished itself the pollination network that had been broken by the clearing of the land came back. To their great satisfaction native pollinators like the moths, butterflies and beetles returned and could again be found active in their garden. 

More and more we are seeing the typical ultra green lawn spring up on the Vineyard. The suburban lawn of the 1950’s has found its way to the island. The pride and control that so many families exhibited in their uniform yards during the post war years established a ritual that is well entrenched in America. Now often that familiar male competitive hobby of the perfect lawn can be seen not only as an aesthetic accomplishment, but also as a way to fight the deer tick paranoia. The assumption that deer ticks aren’t interested in lawns is actually not true, as Tim pointed out. Deer ticks are just as comfortable in the short lawn grasses of your yard, as they are in the long grasses of the fields, woods and shoreline elsewhere on the Vineyard. The other draw back to these lawns is the amount of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides needed to make them look perfect. Not only are the treated lawns a health hazard, but the excessive nitrogen from the fertilizer leaches into the groundwater in our Great pond watersheds and creates excessive algae blooms that contaminate our water bodies. 

There are several places where islanders and visitors alike can go to see and learn more about native plants. The Polly Hill Arboretum has an ongoing sale of native plants, bushes and trees, from Memorial Day through to Columbus Day. Kris Henrickson, a native plant expert and ecological landscaper, now has a section at Heather Gardens where her native plants can be purchased. Carlos Montoya from Aquinnah is another native plant expert whose plantings can be seen all over the island. The Nature Conservancy has an annual native seed program at their field station, and volunteers are always needed. Call the Nature Conservancy for details. And lastly VCS has several books for sale on native plants that are helpful when you are considering creating a native garden. The Vineyard is unique in its rural habitats. Complimenting your surroundings with similar plantings assures that the web will not be broken and the island will continue to be the special place that we are all love.