You have found your way to “WeDigPollinators.net” – a blog and gallery of the curation of a Pollinators’ Garden at the Guilford County Center of the NC State University/NC A&T State University Cooperative Extension service. Our Pollinators’ Garden resides within the larger Demo Garden, designed and maintained by Extension Master Gardener Volunteers.
We have about 1500 square feet of terraced space, excellent soil, and lots of sun to work with. We also were awarded grant funds from the Carolina Butterfly Society in order to establish an appropriate native habitat for butterflies. There has previously been work done in this garden, as strictly a “Butterfly” garden, so we have been able to build on that work.
The Pollinators’ Garden team consists of 8 Master Gardeners: Janet Sommers (class of 2012) is the project leader, and has a real passion for learning and teaching about bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, and what they need to thrive. The rest of us are new 2014 interns, just earning our “wings”: Baylee Smith, Catherine Aiken, Christina Larson, Deborah Staves, Judy Harvey, Kathy Bellows, Mary Flinn, and Phoenix French. To research our topic and plan our tasks, we have attended seminars, read books, and researched internet sources of information on how to provide host plants, nectar plants, and shelter plants in a garden setting.
When we began our ownership of this project, it was still winter here in the NC Piedmont, and since most of the plants we inherited are perennials or deciduous shrubs, there wasn’t much excitement. There were some plant labels, though, and a database and photos to guide us. We are still working on identifying a few plants that weren’t labeled – as they grow and bloom they become familiar to us and we match them with the database and plants in our own home gardens.
One of the first things all gardeners must do when planning or renovating a garden is test the soil. Kathy collected our samples, mixing soil cores from several spots in the garden in a clean bucket, and mailing it off to the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services soil testing section. About 10 days later, we had our report, which outlined soil amendment recommendations. Kathy also donated the lime and fertilizer we needed to add based on those recommendations. We will address the complete soil testing process in a later post.
Our next task was to begin planning what to plant in addition to what was already in place. We all weighed in with our favorite native varieties and created a list of “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”, with bloom time, color, height & width, and sun/shade requirements all part of the mix. Some plants were donated that we had grown from seed or divided from our home gardens, and some were purchased.
Next came planning the location of the new plants, with consideration given to their eventual mature size. Mary had sketched a schematic of the original plantings on Day One, and we have used it to guide our decisions throughout the process. Each time a new plant was added or moved, Mary added or moved it on the diagram. This way, we can document the whole process from start to finish. There were a few nice garden sculptures that we inherited, which cleaned up nicely once the rust was removed. We painted them a bright red to help attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. We like the red color, too! It really pops against the greens of the garden.
Another educational aspect of our project is to design and build three different trellises in order to demonstrate some of the options that home gardeners have. We decided to use bamboo as our trellis material, and Phoenix found some in the adjacent barn that had been abandoned many years ago. The bamboo cleaned up great, but was too big for anything but the outer frames. We are currently on the hunt for a source of smaller bamboo. One interesting note on bamboo trellises – make sure you don’t use green bamboo for the posts that go into the ground, unless you pour concrete footers. You don’t want it to sprout! But green bamboo is fine for the internal elements.
That’s all for this post, but check back for our photo gallery, links to resources, our diagrams and designs, and especially – more info on how you can create a pollinator-friendly habitat in your own space.