- Author: Paula Pashby
In her research on climate change and habitat restoration information, Deb Sorrill - Yolo County Master Gardener, came across a splendid project called ‘Home Grown National Park'. During a chat one day, she told me about the mission and goals of this grassroots program.
Home Grown National Park is a cooperative conservation project that has the objective of creating 20 million acres of individual native plantings across the United States. The 20 million acres represent the estimated ½ of the green lawns or other lands in United States that could be converted into native plant gardens. The goal of this program is to “restore biodiversity and ecosystem function” by planting more native plants to expand and restore habitats.
This project is based on findings from UC studies showing that, although many of our current national parks are quite large, they are not close enough to each other to preserve many vital species of wildlife and pollinators that require movement from place to place.
The Home Grown National Park project was founded by Doug Tallamy, professor of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. He is the author of many intriguing books, such as The Nature of Oaks, Nature's Best Hope, and Bringing Nature Home, to name a few. There are some informative YouTube videos from the architect of the Home Grown National Park project, Doug Tallamy, explaining the importance of this movement. And here is a quote from him: “In the past, we have asked one thing of our gardens: that they are pretty. Now they have to support life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators and manage water.” - Doug Tallamy
The project is focused on having people replace their lawn space with native plants. Native plants are so much more beneficial to the ecology than a conventional grass lawn. Native plants have adapted to their environment and provide many benefits, including sustained biodiversity, drought tolerance, less need for fertilizers and pesticides, improvement of air quality by removing carbon, reduction of water runoff and flooding, and the provision of habitat for our essential native pollinators and wildlife that have all co-evolved together.
The Home Grown National Park site (homegrownnationpark.org) has a map of the United States and displays real-time data on total US native plantings, including milestone accomplishment metrics towards the 20 million acre native plantings goal. What makes this project exciting is that we, as participants, can input information on our own individual contributions to native plantings. We all hope that our gardens will have some positive effect on the environment and now we have a tool to actually see how our individual and collective contributions will advance progress towards meeting the program acreage goal.
I did a quick tally of native plants in my yard and came up with 16 square feet and then signed up to be on the map. It did not take long and I only had to enter a few data points: like the county I live in, the number of planting areas, and square footage. It was so much fun to see the number of native plant habitats increase just with my small plot! Also, when I revisited the map, I saw that another person in my county (Solano) had recently signed up and increased the native plant acreage total.
This program and mapping tool has given me a new sense of hope that we, as individuals, can help slow down the scary path towards ‘climate change' and hitting the tipping point of no return. With this tool, we can enter our data, feel like we are doing our part, and may also be inspired to plant more native plants instead of a grass lawn.
I know so many of you have CA native plantings in your garden and would love to see how your contributions help fill in the program map. And if you do not have CA natives, I hope you will be inspired to bring some into your garden. We can do this – one person at a time!
Here are some practical websites for determining which CA native plants are right for you:
- ‘Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour', Kathy Kramer. This website is fantastic for creating your own garden. You can enter in criteria, such as ‘under 600 sq ft, have a pond and on a slope', and the application will provide you with several garden examples and ideas that include all the conditions you listed https://www.bringingbackthenatives.net/gardens-at-a-glance
- Another excellent website to get thorough information on native plants is from the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) Calscape https://calscape.org/loc-California/. This site provides information on CA native plant type (perennial or annual), size, growth rate, dormancy (evergreen or deciduous), flowering season, and the wildlife and pollinators they support.