Abner Monegro had pulled his rented Home Depot flatbed into the CEED parking area, hauled out repurposed wood, and began making raised beds.
A resident of Syosset, he knew Eric Powers, the Center for Environmental Education and Discovery co-founder, program and site director, from his wife’s Boy Scout involvement and was hooked on his environmental practices. (Powers was named 2020 Environmentalist of the Year by the Long Island Sierra Club in January.)
“I was having my car repaired and saw the wood lying in someone’s yard. After getting the owner’s permission, I brought it here,” Monegro said. He had even rubbed the wood with nontoxic linseed oil.
The wood was a welcome gift to Powers. CEED is calling out a raised-bed challenge to create pollinator gardens.
Come on down!
“We’re asking people to bring wood and build a raised bed, 4 feet by 8 feet, 24 inches high,” explained Powers. “People can sign up; we’ll have 40 beds numbered, and they can put their name on it or not. We’ll fill it with compost and there will be themes they can use, like an herb garden, native wildflower garden, or children’s garden, with flowers that are friendly to touch and eat. We’re teaching people to live sustainably without the chemicals.”
Soil for the raised beds would come from Brookhaven Town’s composted trees and leaves that would have been thrown away. “It’s open to the public,” he added. “We’re making sustainable gardens to be used.”
It was a quiet Saturday at the nature center, a magnet for enthusiastic children and adults who enjoy their programs. As he roamed the sunlit property, Powers discussed efforts to keep their wooded area populated by native trees; 40 American chestnut trees from the American Chestnut Foundation had been planted.
Accompanied by Kayla Aristizabal, a Stony Brook University coastal environment studies student hoping to intern with CEED, Powers hiked through the forest, ducked under branches, and planted three sweet pepperbushes. They bloom with beautiful white cone-shaped flowers. “It’s a shade-tolerant plant native to the Northeast, similar to a bottlebrush bush, and can tolerate wet soils,” he said.
“Part of our mission is to convert green, grassy yards; all those chemicals people put on their lawns kill worms, food for birds, and go into our groundwater. We pay a lot of money to filter out harmful chemicals. But not only that, they create algae blooms that kill fish and other aquatic life. And there are 300 or more species of native bees struggling to find wildflowers and birds like bluebirds that need native wildflowers. I’ve sprinkled $300 worth of native wildflower seeds on the grounds.”
Powers looked over at several brush piles, formerly invasive species.
“In one of them, wild turkeys raised their babies,” he said. “They’re also hiding- ing spots for rabbits, box turtles and chipmunks. And great horned owls are now nesting here.”
For more information about the raised beds, visit on ceedli.org, or call 631-803- 6780.