PASSAIC COUNTY GARRET MOUNTAIN RESERVATION BECOMES FRIENDLIER TO NATIVE PLANTS
By Lourdes Osorio
Rutgers Master Gardener of Passaic County
Master Gardener Association of Passaic County
The next time you visit Garret Mountain Reservation, be sure to stop by the Boat House. The neighboring gardens have been converted from a grass only to a more diverse and attractive gardens that include deer-resistant native plants. Like many of New Jersey’s public parks, the plant community has been severely decimated by the deer population which causes a lack of plant diversity and makes it difficult for insects and birds to find food sources and it also becomes a challenge for beautification projects. Passaic County Master Gardeners, with the cooperation and assistance of the Passaic County Parks Department, began making improvements in the park two years ago by adding deer-resistant plants with a focus on native vegetation friendly to pollinators. Many of the plants were selected for being native to the northeast area and also for their major contribution to the ecosystem by providing nectar and food for butterflies and other pollinators. This in turn helps sustain insects that are of vital importance for the food chain and for human survival.
Another environmentally-friendly feature of the plantings is the installation of rain barrels for watering. Fifty-gallon rain barrels supplied by Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Passaic, collect rainwater that is used to irrigate plants during dry spells. Not only do rain barrels help conserve water but also reduce water runoff that can contribute to pollution in waterways. Please note that this water is non-potable and suitable only for watering plants.
Some of the native plants used include wild-blue indigo, used as a food source by caterpillars of several butterflies, swamp milkweed, used by monarch butterflies, and little blue stem, utilized by skippers.
Master Gardeners will continue to weed and maintain these gardens for the benefit of the community.