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Natural Awakenings Indianapolis

Fishers HOA Challenges Suburban Landscape Standards

One neighborhood in Fishers is shattering landscaping norms that have persisted for over 50 years with an overhaul of their public space. The Orchard at Sunblest is embracing environmentally sustainable approaches to better manage their half-acre entranceway median with help from the Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District and the Greenscape Geeks, LLC.

The median on Orchard Boulevard, located just off of Allisonville Road between 116th and 126th streets, was revamped with a native pollinator garden around their signage and the replacement of 26 diseased trees with a group of diverse native flowering trees.

To aid in the expense, The Orchard Civic Association—the homeowners association for the neighborhood—secured a grant from the Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District’s cost share program, which helps landowners practice better environmental stewardship by providing financial assistance for the implementation of conservation practices.

Conservation practices are necessary to bolster the populations of pollinator insect species and other wildlife vital to agriculture and the ecosystem; filter stormwater; lessen the demand on water treatment plants; control erosion; and provide opportunities for community members to live healthier lifestyles.

“Having the cost share in place was definitely the catalyst for making a decision on moving forward with this project,” says Robin Groves, vice president of The Orchard Civic Association. “It was more an affirmation that we were doing the right thing and it helped our committee come to a consensus.”

Any resident, organization or business in Hamilton, Marion, Hancock and Madison counties can apply for assistance through their county’s cost share program. Projects that qualify include pollinator garden installation, native tree plantings, rain gardens and bioswales, invasive plant removal, raised bed construction, soil testing and amendments, prairie plantings, porous pavement and pavers, cover crops, water and pond-edge enhancements, wetland construction and filter strips.

One stipulation of the program is that no pesticides, herbicides or insecticides may be used on the area after completion of the project.

“The idea of not using chemicals in the suburbs might take a while to catch on, but we know so much about what the chemical practices of the past have been doing to our soil and water supply,” says Groves. “We want to do our part to make a difference and encourage everyone else in our community to do the same.”

The Orchard’s project was constructed and will be maintained by the Greenscape Geeks, LLC, a turf and landscape company that provides only environmentally sustainable options to clients. In addition to native plant landscape design and installation, they also provide non-chemical turf maintenance, rain garden installation, raised garden bed construction, urban farm and prairie installation, and invasive plant removal, among other services.

“The first thing people have to embrace,” says Nick Abbott, co-owner of the Greenscape Geeks, “is that most of what we deem as ‘weeds’ are actually beneficial to your turf and the environment. For example, clover is a nitrogen fixer that helps feed your grass and dandelions are the first food source after winter for pollinator bees. So, some of these aren’t weeds to us, but they can still also be controlled without the use of harmful chemicals.”

Instead of fertilizer and herbicide treatments, the Greenscape Geeks stress enhancing the soil with compost and compost tea applications, easing compaction with aeration to allow grass roots to grow and choke out weeds, planting native grass seed from local growers, and educating the community on proper maintenance techniques. These techniques include leaving grass clippings and mulching leaves into the lawn, mowing grass to a height of no less than three inches to prevent weed seed germination, sharpening mower blades so that turf can better absorb nutrients from the sun, and watering infrequently and deeply to avoid thatch.

“It’s really encouraging to see a neighborhood HOA like The Orchard on board with our methods,” says Abbott. “We get so many calls from people that are more concerned with what their neighbors think about their lawn than they are with the quality of our waterways. Our methods take more time to work out than a quick chemical application, but they also come with a sense of pride that you’re doing the right thing for the good of everyone.”

The Orchard at Sunblest’s entranceway median is located on Orchard Blvd., off of Allisonville Rd., between 116th and 126th streets. For more information, visit OrchardCivicAssociation.com.

Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District is located at 1717 Pleasant St., Ste. 100, Noblesville. For more information on the cost share program and services they provide, call 317-773-2181 or visit HamiltonSWCD.org.

The Greenscape Geeks, LLC serves all of Greater Indianapolis. For more information or to schedule an estimate, call 317-801-5833 or visit GreenscapeGeeks.com.

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