Thursday, July 20, 2017

Native Pollinator Garden Updates (19 & 20 July 2017)

Since 2011, the Isabella Conservation District has helped design, plant, and maintain four native pollinator gardens.  These gardens are located at the Saginaw Chippewa Academy, Winn Elementary, the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum, and the Morey Public School Academy.  On June 19th, a decision was made to close the Morey PSA, effective immediately.

What does that mean for the garden at the school?

Once the school announced it closure, we made the decision to rescue and transplant as many of the plants from the garden as possible.  This means that for the past four days I have been digging up plants from that garden, placing them into totes, and transporting them elsewhere for replanting.

Here is what the Morey PSA pollinator garden looked like on Monday (17 July) morning.

Morey native pollinator garden (17 July 2017)

This is what the garden looked like as of this morning.  You can see a lot of plants have been removed, but many still remain.

Morey native pollinator garden (20 July 2017)

Here a view from the opposite side of the garden. This photo was taken yesterday - the grasses on the left are now gone, as are many of the plants in the background.

There should be a 3 ft wide walkway running from this point through the tree all the way to the other side - some milkweed and coreopsis have grown up in the walkway this year.  Both sides of the walkway were full of plants.

It may not seem like much has been removed, but so far I have dug up four full pick-up truck loads of plants and removed them from the site.

The second of three truck loads removed so far.
So what is happening to all the plants that I remove from the Morey native pollinator garden?

Some of them went to Winn Elementary.  The garden at Winn was planted in 2012 and is full of mature plants at this stage.  However there are some areas of the garden where plants have failed to thrive or even died out completely.  This garden is on a challenging site - compacted clay soil, full morning shade and full afternoon sun, lots of roof runoff but most of the water draining away from the site.

I have already added more than a truck load of plants to the Winn Elementary garden, but you would hardly know it unless you know what to look for - these plants are just being used to fill in the blanks.  I will be visiting this garden daily for about a week to make sure the new plants are well watered as they establish roots in their new soil; then they are on their own.

Winn Elementary native pollinator garden (19 July 2017)

A second view of the Winn Elementary Garden

More of the Winn Elementary garden - lots of weeding was done in this section to remove Canada Tick-trefoil

Could you tell where plants have been added to the garden at Winn Elementary?

No?  That's sort of the point.  Remember this is just filling in the blanks, not starting from scratch.

Obviously, not all of the plants from the Morey PSA garden have gone to Winn Elementary.  The rest of them are going the Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum.  The Discovery Museum already has a native pollinator garden.  It was planted in 2013, with plants left over from planting the Morey garden.  The garden itself doesn't need a lot more plants.

Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum native pollinator garden

Mt. Pleasant Discovery Museum native pollinator garden - not Rattlesnake Master, Black-eyed Susan, and Hoary Vervain

There are blank spaces in this garden, but the plants are doing a good job of filling in those spaces on their own.  Barring a die-off, in just a couple more years, I expect this garden to be almost completely filled with plants.

So instead of using the plants in the garden, they are going to be used here...

The new home for most of the plants from the Morey Pollinator Garden

The west side of the Discovery Museum property is bordered by a series of retention ponds.  These ponds hold water that drains from the museum's parking lot.  The ponds are home to a surprising variety of wildlife species - frogs, dragonflies and other aquatic insects, Red-winged Blackbirds, and (as of this spring) a muskrat.  The ponds support a number of aquatic plant species including cattails, rushes, sedges, willows, and a many wildflower species.

The museum is committed to using more of its outdoor space.  Last fall I helped them design a series of interpretive signs (seen in the picture above) so visitors can learn more about the wetlands.  The museum director also expressed a desire to create a more natural border along the wetlands.  Previously the lawn was mowed all the way to the edge of the wetland - the first step to creating a natural border was simply to stop mowing.  Second, the museum scattered wildflower seed in the unmown area - unfortunately I don't see a lot of evidence that this was successful.

To speed the process of naturalization along, many of the plants from the Morey PSA garden are going to end up here. 

Awaiting trnsplant

While it is disappointing to have to dig up a garden just as it was maturing, I am glad that we have a ready home for the plants.

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