Sunday, March 3, 2013

Among the Wildflowers

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

                               -Tom Petty

Today I am attending the annual conference of the Wildflower Association of Michigan.  The theme for this year's conference is "Grow the Change you want to see in the World".  In keeping with the idea of change I am going to post some pictures of schoolyard habitat restoration projects that we have completed through our Environmental Education Program. We have built and installed bluebird nest boxes at three local schools (Saginaw Chippewa Academy, Morey Public School Academy, and Winn Elementary) and  have helped two local schools install native pollinator gardens- Saginaw Chippewa Academy (2011) and Winn Elementary (2012).  Below are some photos of the two pollinator gardens.

Saginaw Chippewa Academy 

The pollinator garden at SCA was planted in front of a portable classroom at the school.  My wife Shara, a teacher at SCA, was awarded a grant through the Wildflower Association of Michigan that paid for the plants for this site.  The school contributed money for materials.  The Isabella Conservation District through our Environmental Education Program contributed technical advice, garden design, and planting assistance.

SCA - before

SCA - before

Students turned the sod by hand and removed all the grass - shaking the soil from the roots.

Then the area was raked level.

A grid was laid out according to the garden plan and plants were arranged within the grid.

The students planted the garden by hand.
The garden quickly filled up with plants.
Mulch was added and a path made from tree round pavers was installed the next day.

SCA - after
Two months later

The sunflowers were "volunteers" left behind when birds dropped them from the feeders.
The native pollinator garden thrived during the summer of 2012, despite experiencing drought conditions much of the growing season.   Many plants reached four to six feet in height.  Success with this garden encouraged us to take on and sponsor a larger garden project at Winn Elementary.

Winn Elementary

We talked with the staff of Winn Elementary about putting in a native pollinator garden on their school grounds.  A site was chosen along the front of the school.  A school board member volunteered his skid steer to excavate the sod and put in mulch.  The school parent committee contributed money to purchase mulch for the garden.  The Isabella Conservation District purchased the plants and provided design and planting assistance.  We were able to fund the purchase of plants for this project because in the grant proposal for our Environmental Education Program we had included money for habitat improvements.

Winn Elementary - before

Winn Elementary - before.  The borders of the garden are laid out with flags.
After a few hours of work with the skid steer and by hand all of the sod was removed and mulch was added.

Another view of the garden before planting.  The entrance to the school is at the far edge of the garden.

                                  Just like at SCA, the garden was laid out in a grid according to the garden plan.                                        Students worked in shifts to plant through the mulch
                               The mulch was pushed aside, holes were dug and plants were popped into the ground.                    Then the mulch was pushed back around the plants.  

Winn Elementary - after

Winn Elementary - After
The native pollinator garden at Winn Elementary survived but did not thrive during the summer of 2012.  The area was under drought conditions for much of the summer.  Most of the plants concentrated on sending down root systems with little visible growth.  Even with very little water, there was almost no loss of plants during the summer, less than 10 plants out of over 200 planted.  I cannot wait to see how this garden takes off this growing season.  I will update on both gardens later in the summer.

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