Landscaping and Nature in the Hudson Valley

Who is cutting your grass?

Who has time to mow the yard anymore? In our zip code, the odds are good that a local contractor handles your lawn care, while landscape architects and tree removal experts take on specialized tasks. Google tells us that to maintain resale value on a house, you are supposed to budget ten percent of your home’s assessed value for landscaping, a tithe many people dutifully render to the gods of real estate each year. What does this money go to?

In landscapers’ jargon, soft landscaping covers installation and maintenance of bushes, flowers, grasses, and bulbs. Hard landscaping gets you pavers, retaining walls, driveways, pool patios, decks, and poolside grills and kitchens. Once you have installed all that outdoor eating and living space, not surprisingly, mosquito and tick control services typically follow close on their heels.

The hamlet of Palisades is embraced by a large biological reservoir of gorgeous native Hudson Valley woodlands that have survived hurricanes, blowdowns, marauding insects and imported diseases. Tranquil groves of oak, beech, tulip, black birch, and sweet-gum have grown, undisturbed, for nearly a hundred years in Tallman Park, on the former IBM property, and in adjoining public/Boy Scout lands in Alpine and Rockleigh. Hikers and dog walkers love them.

The deer love those woods too, and with few natural predators, the local herd has swelled into a roving gang of hungry garden wreckers. How can we live with them in harmony? How can we live with the ticks they drop in our yards and other biting insects? For the moment, 9 foot tall fences seem to work against the deer, and poorly understood and mostly unlabeled pesticides are casually sprayed all over the grass where our families walk and play in hope of discouraging the ticks.

But are these responses sustainable? What role can our hardworking landscapers play in helping us live with our environment, instead of trying to fight against it?

A powerful tool we can wield right now is to hire landscapers who are able to plant and maintain natural wildlife gardens without pesticides. Landscapers are in business to please their customers. If everyone asks for this, landscapers will have to find a way to deliver it.