Sustainable Landscape–Brentwood Campus

We commit ourselves
…To honor the beauty of creation as life giving for the human spirit, allowing ourselves to be filled with awe and reverence before the wonders of creation.
…To preserve, protect, restore, and cherish the integrity, biodiversity, balance, and beauty of the land and all the species with whom we share it.
Sisters of St. Joseph Land Ethic

Founders Plot

The mission of the non-profit Long Island Native Plant Initiative (LINPI) is to protect the genetic integrity and heritage of Long Island native plant populations and thus biodiversity from a landscape to genetic level, by establishing commercial sources of genetically appropriate local (ecotypic) plant materials for use in nursery, landscaping, and habitat restoration activities. LINPI is leasing two acres of our Brentwood land to be used as a FOUNDER PLOT. Once ecotypic plants have been propagated in containers, they are transplanted in to a founder plot that is used to produce modest quantities of seed for subsequent commercial scale production. The use of founder plots results in the the controlled and satisfactory yield of weed-free seed which is the genetically pure representation for the seed production. LINPI currently cooperates with Ernst Conservation Seed of Meadville, PA to produce commercial quantities of ecotypic seed.

Native Grass Meadows

Lawns are often the source of environmental harm – through excess fertilizer and chemical use, and the replacement of productive insect and wildlife habitat with a near monotypic stand of one type of plant — grass.  Lawns don’t have to go away; we just need to think about what our lawns are for, and how we can reduce them and eliminate harmful polluted byproducts from their traditional care. Wildflower meadows, alternative grass species that require less upkeep, alternative landscaping that includes planting shrubs, flowers and even ornamental grasses, and creating important wildlife habitat,  are all techniques being used to reduce the size and dominance of the American lawn (Long Island Sound Study).

The popularity of native grass and wildflower meadows is growing. These drought-tolerant natural areas offer habitat for wildlife, attract insects and pollinators, and increase overall biodiversity, while building something that is both unique and aesthetically pleasing. The Sisters of St. Joseph started the construction of a three-acre native grass meadow in a section of the large lawn area in front of the main buildings.  The first step in the project included the plowing and discing of the ground.  Oats were planted in the semi smooth surface to prepare the soil for an early spring planting of the meadows. The purpose of the native grass meadow is to restore ecosystems to provide wildlife habitat for species likely to be found in the Long Island bioregion and to restore native plant communities.  In addition, there are several other benefits of using native grasses in the landscape. Because their historical origin is the prairie, where conditions are typically hot and dry during the growing season, native grasses are extremely drought tolerant and have a distinct survival advantage over non-natives during the summer months. In hot weather, cool season plants wilt or turn to brown crunch, while native grasses are growing vigorously and showing off their green-hence their name, “warm season” grasses. Natives like switch grass, Indian grass, little bluestem, and big bluestem all have very deep roots-some up to 12 to 14 feet-that are adapted to find moisture in the soil and withstand the effects of extended dry spells. This project is funded by a grant that we received from the Long Island Community Foundation.

Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are shallow depressions dug in a lawn and planted with native plants and flowers. These moderate-sized gardens allow rain water to slowly percolate into the ground instead of creating storm water runoff. Compared with conventional lawns, a rain garden recharges 30% more water into an aquifer. This is especially important here in Suffolk County, because we rely on one aquifer for our water supply.  Utilizing a portion of the grant that we received from the Long Island Community Foundation, we created a 2,000 sq. ft. rain garden. Volunteers from the Suffolk Cornell Cooperative Extension volunteered to plant the garden. More than 100 native plants and 20 yards of compost were used.

Native Plants

Long Island is a diverse mosaic of maritime grasslands, pitch pine, oak and beech forests, rivers, streams, tidal marshes, bluffs and beaches that are fragmented by human development. A decline in local biodiversity continues as natural habitats are further encroached upon by more development, agriculture and invasive species. Conserving biodiversity has long focused on habitat and species. But the importance of protecting genetic biodiversity is gaining momentum. Read more at Long Island Native Plant Initiative.

More Information

Native Plants Newsday

Native Grasses Case Study

Grow a Native Grass Meadow

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