It is good to garden, especially with the native plants that attract pollinators.
In coming months, staff of the Teen Center at the Carnegie Library will guide local teens with planting easy care native flowers and vegetables on the weekend. They’ve already transformed the front and back areas of the library into green spaces that look good and thrive without pesticides and fertilizers.
The Patchogue-Medford Library’s Teen Center’s efforts ultimately lassoed a Bay Friendly Yard citation from Save the Great South Bay Inc., a local nonprofit that advocates for and implements solutions to restore the bay. Their mantra: “Environmental stewardship practices lead to cleaner bay water.”
The Teen Center’s Bay Friendly Yard citation is among two-dozen certified yards so far. The Patchogue-Medford Library is the second Suffolk County library to receive it; Lindenhurst was the first.
“This is the third year we worked with Eva Rodriguez-Greguski from HomeGrown Change,” explained Michele Cayea, Patchogue Medford Library’s director of education and outreach, of Greguski’s nonprofit that works with school and community groups, encouraging gardens with native plants and pollinators, raising vegetables, and ultimately influencing healthy eating choices, especially for young people.
Greguski started her nonprofit in 2016 after purchasing historic boatbuilder Gil Smith’s former home in Patchogue. The home’s front and back gardens were a mess. She got to work and her husband Bryan built a rock garden. Neighbors started dropping off plants at her front door.
She recognized the planting community, and the Carnegie Library became her first project.
“She donates plants for our pollinating garden and also vegetables,” Cayea added.
Cayea and other staff roll up their sleeves on the raised beds, borders and grassy areas and work with about seven teens on weekends, digging in the soil. Grass clippings are kept on the lawn as natural mulch. Leaves not used for mulching are recycled at the Town of Brookhaven’s mulch site.
“They plant right after Memorial Day each year,” Cayea said. Besides local teens, a scout troop has been involved with the effort.
“It started in May of COVID,” Robyn Silvestri, Save the Great South Bay executive director, said of last year’s push for bay friendly yards. It incorporates a minimum of two out of three essential criteria to qualify.
The nonprofit also conducts a monthly webinar series on topics such as removing or replacing native plants, stormwater management, local stewardship and not using fertilizer or pesticides.
“Native plants and grass can thrive on their own,” Silvestri said. “We’re just saying, ‘Look at your own backyard; you can have an impact.’”
More and more young people were starting initiatives, said the librarians who gathered along with village trustee Joseph Keyes, who has initiated many environmental practices in Patchogue.
“I have a teenager who is very worried about the environment,” said Patchogue-Medford Library director Danielle Paisley. “On Thursday we’re going to learn to be beekeepers.”
It’s not the first time the Patchogue-Medford Library has been lauded for their environmental practices. They received an official Green Business Certification from the Green Business Partnership and were recognized by the Village of Patchogue as a certified Green Business.