Janet McAllister, Kelly Vaughan and Dave Smith are all avid gardeners who wanted to take their skills and knowledge to the next level.
The three were among the latest group to complete the Coastal Certificate program, taught by Judy Preston, Sea Grant’s Long Island Sound outreach coordinator. The recent class received their certificates of completion at a ceremony on Oct. 1 at the Connecticut Audubon Center’s Coastal Center at Milford Point.
“This class has inspired me to do a lot more with native plants,” said McAllister, whose recent move to a shoreline property in Milford made her want to learn how to practice gardening that helps rather than hurts the water quality of the Sound.
For Vaughan, one of 37 master gardeners who completed the Coastal Certificate classes this spring, the program gave her the opportunity to work in several different outreach projects as part of the training. Along with 16 hours of classes, participants are required to complete 10 hours of outreach activities, which included shoreline cleanups, replanting of native species at a public garden and a pollinator fair, among others. Going back several weeks later to one of the public gardens she had helped plant, Vaughan recalled, she was gratified to find hundreds of bees there gathering nectar on the flowers.
“No matter how small a contribution you can make, it does make an impact,” said Vaughan, a resident of West Haven.
Smith said concern for protecting the water quality of a pond at his home in Clinton was one of his main motivations for taking the class. He’s now much more aware of issues such as polluted runoff and the importance of keeping buffers of native plants around waterways.
“Gardening is about much more than flowers,” he said.
Now in its fifth year, the class promotes coastal landscapes designed to be sustainable that also protect water quality in the estuary and create healthy habitats for wildlife.
“Gardening is not just about pretty plants anymore,” Preston told the class during the final session. “It’s a tangible way to address environmental degradation and climate change in our own backyards.”
Vaughan said she appreciated that the classes covered the history and biology of the Sound.
“There were a variety of interesting speakers,” she said. “We learned a lot about the Sound as well as way to protect it.”
For information on upcoming Coastal Certificate classes, contact Preston at: firstname.lastname@example.org.