This Spring, North Florida Land Trust partnered with The Food Park Project to replace our lawn with a river-friendly and edible yard at our office in the Riverside neighborhood of Jacksonville. Val Hermann, founder of the Food Park Project, helped us pick the “right plant” for the “right place” to take advantage of natural light, shade, and ground contour with the goal to conserve both water and energy in plant growth.
With a great group of community volunteers, we grabbed our shovels and first dug a trench on the highest slope between the sidewalk and street. As Val informed us, city infrastructure intends for water to flow on concrete into the storm drain and out to the river. By digging a trench along the sidewalk, water would flow off the sidewalk into the ground instead of the street, soaking down the slope into the garden’s roots and preventing the need to water more frequently. This is beneficial for the river in that it reduces water consumption, taking strain off of our limited resource aquifer. It also halts runoff into the river by diverting water flow and putting it to good use.
Our intention was to create a river-friendly yard, however the benefits of the garden went beyond our expectation and continue to surprise us. With a morning of hard work, volunteers and staff managed to turn the mono-cultured lawn into an abundant and flowering ecosystem. What started out with a desire to be “backyard stewards” of our local environment, turned into a surprising source of pride and joy for our employees and volunteers. The whole process has added to a culture of health and happiness in our office dynamic. We take turns watering and weeding as needed; we step outside to admire the flowers, pick basil to add to our salads, or take a needed break from work.
Yet, the most rewarding outcome is the habitat the garden has created for monarch butterflies and other pollinators. The monarchs lay their eggs and feed on the native milkweed we planted, and bees bumble from sunflower to the state flower, coreopsis. Our persimmon tree even had a brief visit by giant lubber grasshoppers.
All in all, the garden has been a beautiful boon to our work experience and an immediate reminder of why we do the work that we do. While we are just one business trying to change this ethic for “backyard” conservation, imagine if each of us in our personal and business landscapes did the same thing. Perhaps then, we could really make a difference.
Female monarch butterfly visits the native milkweed we planted!