Master Gardener spoke at Bath and Goshen about Polinators
Gardens of all kinds and sizes feel like good news this time of year, and even though our last frost date could still be several weeks off, it’s not to soon to think ahead. Both the Goshen and Bath branches of the Rockbridge Regional Library offered evening talks in March by Master Gardener, Barbara Thomas about pollinators and on her work in an Elementary School Garden.
She began with some specific scientific information like about one thousand species of fruits and vegetable need to be pollinated, and how many of them have only one specific pollinator. An example is, who’d have thought it? The box turtle is actually the species of animal that pollinates Mayapple. Barbara offered ideas about what to put in your own garden, and had a slide show.
“I would recommend you put a good amount of native in. Again, for those insects and buggies that grew up and evolved for a long time, we want our natives. Now you’re not going to fine one that blooms from early spring to late fall. You’ll have some that are pretty long blooming, but you want a variety of plants, some that start in the early spring, then some different ones that are late spring, some that are early summer, some that are late summer and on to early fall. Another thing, this is from our school garden this basil has all kinds of little seeds and flower, so the bees really like that. And think Monarch Butterflies and milkweed- that’s why there’s such a big push for native plants. If you want to increase your insects, which increase all those little caterpillars is what they’ve gotta feed baby birds, you’ve got to plant native plants. You can typically see on an oak tree, several hundred different types of caterpillars, which is good for the birds and the whole ecosystem. How many do you see on a Ginko tree? Zip, Zilch. The birds and the bugs around here did not grow up with Ginko; they don’t like it.”
Mrs. Thomas also described what happens in ecosystems who have lost even more of their pollinators than we already have.
“There are very few pollinators in Japan these days. And they have kids going up trees with long poles, to help pollinate the trees. They’ve even done some experiments on a drone that can go around and pollinate. We’ve got to have these pollinators. “
Barbara applied for, and was awarded a grant to improve the schoolyard garden where she volunteers in Rockbridge County. In addition to the two-year old pollinator bed, second through fifth graders use lessons in and about the garden that match Standards of Learning with hands-on experiences.
One example of an early social study lesson shows how the garden is cross curricular. A variety of lesson plans touch on different myths of the Three Sisters, but the planting method remains the same. From one of the many lesson plans available about the Three Sisters:
“This system creates a beneficial relationship between the three plants- each plant helps the others grow. This is a form of companion planting. Modern day agriculturists know it as the genius of the Native Americans, who interplanted pole beans and squash with corn, using the strength of the sturdy corn stalks to support the twining beans and the shade of the spreading squash vines to trap moisture and suppress weeds in the growing crop.
Again Barbara Thomas, on what could be another step in the planting process.
“We’ve never really planted fish with our corn. Maybe some year we will, sardines or something. Also, the beans will give fertilizer back because the corn is a heavy, heavy feeder, and the squash really does help to smother out weeds.” For the list of her top twelve favorite pollinator plants that Barbara shared with listeners at the libraries, check this story on alleghenymountainradio.org