Harford County Launches 'Grow Wild' Initiative To Boost Biodiversity, Turning Lawns Into Native Pollinator Gardens


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HAVRE DE GRACE - A new program encourages Harford County residents to transform their grass lawns into beautiful gardens with native pollinator plants.

The Grow Wild Program, a collaborative effort between Harford Land Trust, Harford County Master Gardeners, Susquehannock Wildlife Society, and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, aims to foster biodiversity, repair ecosystems, and create spaces where nature can thrive.

A recent report from the Chesapeake Bay Program indicated that turf grass covers approximately 31,000 acres, or 12.8% of land in Harford County. Turfgrass lawns and non-native ornamental plants create an artificial environment that provides little to no habitat for most native species.

Additionally, using insecticides, fertilizers, and herbicides for lawn and exotic plant maintenance can impact biodiversity, eradicating native plants and insects. Excess fertilizers can also run off into local water bodies, causing algal blooms, fish kills, and the growth of invasive exotic plants.

According to the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service Natural Heritage Program, 566 species are classified as  endangered, threatened, in need of conservation, or endangered extirpated. Of the 566 listed by MDE, only 39 species (7% of the total tracked species) are  listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as nationally endangered or threatened, signaling the need for broader local efforts to maintain biodiversity. 

The Grow Wild initiative seeks to provide the tools and resources for landowners, particularly in urban and suburban residential areas of Harford County, to transition parts of their yards into natural spaces.

"Transforming even a small portion of your yard to native pollinator plants helps reduce runoff and enhances our environment," County Executive Bob Cassilly said. "I am thrilled that my administration is backing Grow Wild, and I urge Harford County residents to discover more about this intriguing new program."

One program component is the Pollinator Garden Certification and Pollinator Garden Trail, which is being introduced by the Harford County Master Gardeners. On July 29, residents are invited to a workshop to learn how they can get their private gardens certified as "Pollinator Friendly."

On August 26, the public is invited to the Pollinator Gardens Trail Launch Celebration to unveil the Pollinator Garden Trail. The event will feature educational talks, refreshments, and activities for families.

Additionally, a series of Grow Wild speakers and tours are being held throughout the summer, with topics ranging from bird-friendly landscaping to the crucial role of moths as pollinators. More opportunities to learn about increasing urban and suburban tree cover are planned for the fall of 2023.

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