While freezing temperatures and snowstorms have been dominating our weekly forecasts, the first day of spring is only about a month away. So it’s not too early for coastal residents to initiate plans for maintaining sand dunes and planting spring gardens.
On Friday, March 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the University of Delaware Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, a free coastal landscaping workshop will be held, focusing on topics ranging from dune management to the use of native plants. The event is sponsored by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program.
“Sand dunes are not only a picturesque aspect of the coastal landscape, but they are also a vital natural resource,” says Anthony Pratt, program manager of DNREC’s Shoreline and Waterways Management Section, and one of the event’s organizers. “Dunes function as sand storage areas, protecting low-lying backshore areas and providing a flexible defense against ocean waves and storm surge. They also supply important habitat for many plants and animals. With proper planning and management, their functions and values may be enhanced.”
Besides showcasing the importance of Delaware’s dunes, the workshop also will emphasize the benefits of using native plants in the home landscape, according to Wendy Carey, coastal processes specialist for the UD Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service.
“Along the entire Delaware shore, landscaping can be a formidable task due to salt spray, wind, sandy soil, and high temperatures” she notes. “However, native plants often provide ecological benefits while requiring minimal maintenance due to their adaptation to local climate and soil conditions.”
Workshop speakers include experts on sand dunes, dune grass planting, coastal landscaping, native plants, and invasive species. William B. Skaradek, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cape May Plant Materials Center, will focus on dune maintenance and dune vegetation. Jay Windsor, master gardener and associate director of the UD Agricultural Research and Education Center, will provide information about the challenges facing coastal landscapers in both planning and planting their gardens.
Olin Allen, invasive species specialist for the Delaware Natural Heritage Program, will discuss invasive species and the key role native plants play in the protection of the beach and dune system. Jennifer Gochenaur, watershed stewardship coordinator for the Delaware Nature Society, will outline the Backyard Habitat Program and how the use of native vegetation not only enhances the natural beauty of the coastal landscape, but also provides food, cover, and nesting sites for small animals.
Educational materials from a variety of state, federal, and non-profit agencies also will be on display.
A highlight of the event will be an afternoon field trip, starting at 2:00 p.m., to Cape Henlopen State Park. A guided tour, led by Anthony Pratt and William Skaradek, will enable participants to view firsthand the landscape and native vegetation of Delaware’s dunes.
While the workshop is free, seating is limited and reservations are required. Registration forms may be downloaded at www.ocean.udel.edu/mas/duneworkshop.pdf or contact Rita Baty at (302) 645-4346 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.