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  • (L-R) Paul Spadaro, president of the Magothy River Association, and Nathan Ullrich, manager of Providence Center’s horticulture program, stand behind a basket of native plants that will be used in a floating garden. The gardens hold three baskets of plants.
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    (L-R) Paul Spadaro, president of the Magothy River Association, and Nathan Ullrich, manager of Providence Center’s horticulture program, stand behind a basket of native plants that will be used in a floating garden. The gardens hold three baskets of plants.

Greener Shoreline Initiative Improves Health Of Local Rivers

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August 13, 2015

Providence Center, a nonprofit organization that serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Anne Arundel County, is teaming up with the Magothy River Association (MRA) and Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) to make local rivers healthier. The organizations are producing a floating garden at Providence Center’s greenhouses that will provide a natural filtration process and create a habitat for wildlife. The gardens are part of a larger project called the Greener Shoreline Initiative to replace lost native shoreline and habitat in the Chesapeake tributaries.

The floating garden design was created at AACC by Steve Ailstock, director of the college’s environmental center; Mike Norman, technical specialist; and Bruce Lenderking, a former student. The garden consists of a Styrofoam frame with three ports to hold native shoreline plants and is designed to anchor to a pier. As the roots grow, they act like filtering straws to improve water clarity and absorb excess nutrients caused by runoff. The cluster of floating roots creates a natural habitat for small fish, crabs and shellfish. The plants also stave off deadly algae blooms by using them in natural growth processes and photosynthesis.

The floating gardens will be produced exclusively by Providence Center and are an easy way for homeowners and businesses to easily do their part to improve the environment. Providence Center growers are assembling the frames and growing the plants for the gardens. They earn a paycheck for their work.

“This is a wonderful enterprise for our growers and for Providence Center,” said Nathan Ullrich, horticulture manager. “Not only does it build on our experience with native plants and advance our work to improve the environment, the project will help develop skills and independence for everyone working on the gardens. I expect that every grower will be involved, as well as some participants outside our traditional horticulture team.”

Paul Spadaro, president of the MRA, said, “Floating gardens are the next big thing to improve the health of our bay and will put us exactly where we need to be to improve oxygen levels, water quality and create the habitats essential to our waterways. Providence Center’s growers are providing the capacity to push this project forward, enabling us to keep up with the demand for the plants and trays.”

Steve Ailstock said the united effort allowed the project to take shape. “It’s a terrific, unique partnership between the college, the Magothy River Association and Providence Center — one that provides a very cost-effective approach to environmental restoration,” Ailstock noted. He added that there is scientific value to the project, as growers study which plants are best suited to different areas of the rivers.

The floating gardens can be purchased fully assembled for $150 or bought as a kit for $100. They are easy to assemble, and shoppers can choose from a variety of plants. At the end of the season, customers can recycle their old plants and purchase new plant baskets for $10. Without the exchange, new baskets are $14 each. To purchase a floating garden or to learn more about the project, contact Nathan Ullrich at nullrich@providencecenter.com.


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