What in the world is a “nurtury”?
The word isn’t in the dictionary….yet….but it is a very important concept on the ground here in our community, and it is a concept that is easily replicable anywhere that plants grow. A nurtury is a place where nature’s gifts are treasured, nurtured, and shared. Those of us who are fortunate to have a garden full of native pollinator plants (not to mention butterflies and bees as well!), many of which freely offer seeds or seedlings, are loathe to let such gifts of nature go to waste. Instead of pulling up seedlings and throwing them in the compost (or, worse, in the trash heap), we pot them up, nurture them, and share them with other gardeners, schools, and other institutions that want to create or expand a native pollinator habitat. Imagine not having to find grant money for plants for a neighborhood school’s butterfly garden! Imagine giving seeds to children in local schools, so they can learn how to sprout them and care for the plants. Imagine saving money by not buying pesticides and reducing areas that need to be mowed. Imagine saving our precious water supply by planting drought tolerant natives instead of thirsty lawns. Imagine saving our food supply by ensuring the survival of pollinators. Imagine connecting with like-minded neighbors, who love nature and want to do something positive. If you have a network of nurturies in your neighborhood, you can do all that and much more by creating sanctuary corridors in which native plants, insects, birds, and other beneficial wildlife (not to mention humans!) can thrive.
What does it take to start your own nurtury?
The most important thing to do is STOP USING PESTICIDES AND HERBICIDES. Chemical poisons have no business in a native pollinator garden. The next step is to find out which native pollinator plants would do well in your garden, and suit your needs. How do you figure out which ones? In Florida, a good place to start is the website of the Florida Native Plant Society. You can select your county and the conditions in your garden and get a list of plants. Likewise, the Institute for Regional Conservation’s website allows you to input your zip code, if you want to really go native. Both of these websites have detailed specifications about the plants, as well as images to guide your selection. Other states have similar native plant societies where you can educate yourself on the best plants to buy. Where can you find these plants? Sadly, native plants are not widely available in big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. And these stores often carry plants that are treated with a systemic pesticide called Neonicotinoids in order to kill aphids, white flies, and other pests. What they don’t tell you is that this poison kills any creature that partakes of any part of the plant, including the nectar and pollen. Who needs nectar and pollen? That’s right: butterflies and bees. The Florida Association of Native Nurseries’ has a database that lets you search for the plants in local nurseries. If you live in South Florida, Steve Woodmansee, of Pro Native Consulting, has a sale at Silent Native Nursery one weekend per month. You can contact him here to get on his email list to be notified of the sale, as well as the available plants, sizes, and prices (tell him Bound by Beauty sent you!). You can even order native plants by mail through companies like mail order natives. Perhaps the best way to proceed, however, is to look around your neighborhood to see if there are gardens with native plants. Chances are the owners would be happy to give you seeds and seedlings and cuttings and advice on how to start your own native garden.
How do you create a network of nurturies in your neighborhood?
You can start with the last piece of advice on where to obtain native plants. Native plant gardeners tend to be passionate about their plants and the insects, birds, and other beneficial wildlife that depend on those plants. Talk to your neighbor with the native plants about setting up an exchange of seeds and cuttings to spread the wealth cheaply and organically. Ask them where they buy their plants. Post on social media to get others in your neighborhood involved. Local Facebook pages and the Nextdoor app can connect you with a lot of like-minded neighbors. Walk around your neighborhood and leave a friendly note at the door of homes with native gardens. It helps to have a “nexus” or two in the neighborhood, gardens with more space that can nurture transplanted seedlings and host exchanges and educational tours. You can expand your network by arranging for a local master gardener or local extension service to conduct a propagation workshop, to learn how best to gather and store seeds, transplant seedlings, and grow plants from cuttings. Native plant habitats in schools and community gardens can also be a source of seeds and connections to like-minded gardeners.