Can One Garden Make a Difference?

One of the thoughts that I keep coming back to is this question of whether one garden can make a difference in the world.  This question makes me ask even more questions like: Can it slow habitat loss? Will it really attract pollinators? Can a conservation garden be beautiful and functional? Is encouraging biodiversity important? Can such a small garden mimic essential ecological processes? Will these pocket gardens connect people with nature? Even if only some of this is true, then conservation CAN indeed start at home.


Create Prairie Habitat at Home

Creating habitat gardens, prairie gardens, wildflower gardens or whatever we want to call them is now part of the conservation movement. Prairies as we knew them 200 years ago are never coming back to their original form. I would love to see large herds of bison meandering through vast expanses of prairie. We would stand in awe as we looked across the horizon on a rich and diverse landscape that moved with the gentlest breeze. But there remains only a handful of prairies that reflect this bygone era. Certainly, we must protect and try to enlarge these prairie tracts as much as possible, but encouraging the planting of thousands of small prairie gardens is equally important. We must begin at our homes by creating small vignettes that reflect our prairie heritage.


Give Back to Nature

It is through human intervention that these new landscapes can bring about change. Nature now relies on us to help more than ever. Conservation is like paddling upstream on a river. Progress happens as long as we keep paddling, but as soon as we stop the river pushes us backward. Incremental change or success is a result of our concerted efforts focused on moving us upstream. We can give nature back as much as it gives us. We rely on each other and we can no longer be separated from one another.

So to answer my question: Yes. Every garden is important in so many ways. To choose to restore, create or protect a habitat makes a difference. Each landscape/garden, no matter how small, can truly have a positive impact on the health of the environment. Imagine your garden habitat connected with hundreds of other prairie landscapes throughout each community, as shown through the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. Pollinators and wildlife will benefit and we will feel good about the role we play as we care for nature.


Here are a few ways that incremental change can happen:

  • Reduce the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
  • Use native plants as much as possible, because wildlife prefers these plants.
  • Plant trees and shrubs that develop fruit and berries that birds need as they migrate or overwinter.
  • Design a garden that has a variety of plants blooming throughout the year.
  • Incorporate plants that adapt to your site, which makes them low maintenance.
  • Transition parts of your lawn to wildlife habitat.


Instead of looking at all the negative that surrounds us daily, let’s focus on the positive role we can have in our neighborhoods.  It is easy to be all doom and gloom, but really we should continue to paddle forward. I believe small, steady changes provide us with a unique opportunity to discover what it means to be a steward of creation.  Who knows? Maybe your garden will be an inspiration that others use to begin their own journey. One garden can make a tremendous difference.

If you live in Kansas and don’t know where to start in establishing a prairie habitat garden, we invite you to further explore our Prairie Notes blog and attend our upcoming FloraKansas Native Plant Festival.

Make Your Favorite School an EPS School

Kansas Earth Partnership for Schools (EPS) has become a flagship program at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains since we received training from EPS founders at University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum in 2006. Over the last eight years, we have enjoyed helping 173 teachers form 58 Kansas schools pass along knowledge of the prairie to more than 21,000 K-12 students.

Here are five reasons why you should share this post with a teacher or administrator and make your favorite local school an EPS school:

1. Kids thrive on outdoor, hands-on, project-based learning.

When students get the chance to learn by doing and are asked to solve a problem in an inquiry based way, not only do they learn and retain concepts more effectively, but they also have fun in the process.



 2. Improve student health and environmental literacy.

Literature and studies show that each successive generation of students is becoming less connected to natural surroundings, more sedentary and more affected by real world problems, including attention deficit disorder and childhood obesity. The EPS Program helps schools address these problems.



3. Add environmentally-friendly landscaping, biological diversity and aesthetic interest to school grounds with prairie garden learning laboratories.

Once established, native plants survive, and often thrive, without irrigation, chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. They attract a host of insect pollinators and other wildlife too. Prairie gardens also give students outdoor laboratories where all subjects of a school’s curriculum can be enhanced.

Butterfly Milkweed


4. Teacher training can be fun!

The EPS summer and winter teacher institute evaluations have clearly and consistently expressed that this Dyck Arboretum program gives teachers some of the most enriching, meaningful and enjoyable teacher training available today. And thanks to grant funding from generous donors, we have been able to provide this program with all of its follow-up support to teachers AT NO CHARGE.


EPSinstitute-June2009_ 009

5. Meet objectives of Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.

The new uniform national performance standards in schools are a reality for teachers and administrators, and the EPS curriculum has been fully correlated to these standards to give teachers a full toolbox of hands-on curriculum activities with which to work.

Tell your favorite teacher to check our website and put the next EPS Summer Institute on the calendar! If you have questions, or would like to schedule an in-service to learn more about EPS, please use our contact form, or call our office and ask for Brad.