Using New Jersey Native Plants to Sustain Pollinators and Songbirds


We recently had the pleasure of visiting Wild Ridge Plants in Pohatcong, NJ. The nursery sits behind an old farmhouse on a north-facing hillside not far from the Delaware River. The house and nursery belong to Rachel Mackow and her husband, Jared Rosenbaum. They started the business in 2012 and moved to their current location this year. You can find Wild Ridge Plants on the world-wide interweb at

Wild Ridge Plants specializes in native New Jersey plant species that provide sustenance to insects, pollinators, and songbirds with a focus on plants that are edible or have medicinal uses. Friends or ours planned to install a mini native plant habitat on a traffic island in downtown Pottersville, NJ. Wild Ridge Plants provided the plants and Mackow was kind enough to provide a planting layout to follow.

Besides growing about 100 plant species, Mackow and her husband provide consulting and educational services for the growing community of gardeners interested in the restoration of native habitat here in New Jersey. Customers include watershed associations, conservancy groups, municipalities and homeowners.

The definition of what, exactly, is a native plant is beyond the scope of this article. Let’s say for now that a native plant is one that was here prior to 1492, or 1620, or – pick a date. For a fuller discussion of the subject you can turn to the excellent book by Douglas W. Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home. You can start here at his site

To really see a native habitat in all it’s glory, Mackow recommends a visit to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope, PA. We plan to go sometime this month and will report back on it.

Wild Ridge Plants occupies about 5 acres of gently sloping farmland. The site was most recently planted in corn – is there anything else? Mackow pointed out that the dirt on the hillside looked wan from the pesticides and fertilizers which had been heaped on the property over the years. Corn is a crop which is particularly hard on soil. They have been slowing nursing the hillside back to health with natural fertilizers and soil-builders.

Mackow described how they collect seeds from the wild and then propagate in the nursery. We toured two greenhouses which house young plants in containers. Mackow said Wild Ridge Plants keeps about 50 species in stock at any given time. They had a very busy spring and much of the stock had been sold already. The field beyond is home to plant species (Wild Bergamot, Woodland Sunflower) which prefer to not be cooped up in containers. Once in a while Rosenbaum goes out with a scythe to clear the weeds. Rainwater provides the irrigation and a spray hose is kept handy just in case. Out back, an uncovered hoop greenhouse contains flats with media ready for planting a rooftop native habitat for a local municipality.

While I toured the nursery with Mackow, her 4 1/2 year-old son gave a tour of the property to another visitor. He ably named the plants and their uses. That one’s for tea. You can eat that one – here, taste it. I imagined a Lenni Lenape boy giving a similar tour to a grateful colonist on the same hillside 300 years ago.

We really enjoyed to Wild Ridge Plants and hope to return soon.

Next, the installation.

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