Monday, July 22, 2019

Mapping Pollinator Hotspots in the Riley Park Community Garden

What a lovely event we had on a beautiful sunny Saturday with the bees a buzzin' in the community garden. Thanks to everyone who came out and brought such delicious food for the potluck and helps us map the garden! I brought my homemade scones, which I like to to spread with honey or jam and clotted cream.

Before lunch, we had fun looking for bees and wannabees in the garden. I worked with my youngest netter ever---not even three years old. He was so excited about catching bees, which we put into jars for a closer look. But what his favourite thing to do was let the bees go. So I taught him to take the lid off the jar and let the insect fly up and away. This is also a skill! Not many folks can remain calm enough to get the hand of it, but he is gifted. During lunch he kept asking me when we could start "bee-ing" again. So cute! This is my favourite part of what I do--connecting people to nature, especially ones with long lives of exploration ahead of them.

The Hot Spots

# 1  Goldenrod Corner

I made small labels for some of the key pollinator plants that are blooming right now in the garden and we walked around to check which ones were really busy at this time of day (1:30 pm to 3 pm).
Not surprising, the goldenrod on the southeast corner of the garden was probably the hottest spot for pollinator diversity, with many sizes of bees, flies, wasps and beetles in a nectar feeding frenzy. And of course, where there are a lot of insects, there are also those insects that feed on other insects, which is also a part of the healthy biodiversity of the garden.

Eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens)

 Long-horned beetle

Sweat Bee

Small Wasp

There are other plants blooming on Goldenrod Corner that help make this a pollinator hotspot: purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Agastache 'Heatwave' and potentilla. Furthermore, there is exposed soil under these plants where the mining bees are making their nests. It's also a warm and sunny spot, making the nectar flow at midday.

#2 Herb Garden

The herb garden and surrounding beds are also a hot spot, even in mid afternoon when they are in dappled shade. The big patch of pearly everlasting attracts small-ground nesting bees and syrphid flies. There were lots of bald-faced hornets hunting for prey on the lovage, and tiny insects on the flowering parsley. The oregano is very popular with many species of bees, including small leafcutter bees. The borage by the shed is popular with honey bees and bumble bees because it pumps our nectar every five minutes! The mint is also a popular one here.

 #3 Pollinator Border (Central Section)

At this time of the day the central section of the Southern Border is sun-warmed and very active with pollinators. Hummingbirds, bumblebees and honeybee are very attracted to many of the flowers here. The popular plants at this time of the year are the bee balms (Monarda), cat mint (Nepeta), anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), tall verbena, fennel, sea holly, sedums, Balkan sage,  and white buddleja. The Persian cat mint on the corner of the beach garden also attracts many honey and bumblebees.

The east end of the pollinator border has persicaria, joe pye weed and snowberry, which are very important pollinator plants for this time of year.

#4 Three Sisters Bed

Bumblebees and hummingbirds love the scarlet runner beans and honeybees and bumblebees love the sunflowers and squash blossoms. A higher number of sunflowers would make this garden more attractive to many species of bees. They are heavy feeders and take lots of nutrients out of the soil. However, they do remediate the soil, taking out toxins.

#5 Medicine Wheel Garden

There are many great pollinator plants in this bed. The persicaria, fireweed, and yarrow are blooming now.

#6 The Espaliered Orchard

There is an eclectic mix of plants here that are blooming while the fruits are forming. The zinnias are and swamp milkweed are much loved by bees and butterflies. Moroccan toadflax is loved by bees that can stick their tongues right into the floral tubes containing nectar. Alyssum is very important for small species of beneficial wasps, flies and bees.

Closing Notes:

Most of the plants in the native gardens have already bloomed and are now producing fruit! I would love to see some native selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) planted around these wild strawberries, replacing the introduced clover. We also need to add some Coreospis grandiflora, native gumweed to the garden because they are the later-blooming native plants that support a wide variety of pollinators. A native clover called Dalea purpurea would also be a great addition.

Finally, another reminder not to plant frilly double flowers that lack nectar and pollen for pollinators who sleep in the flower and need a little sugar boost to get them out and flying again.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this workshop possible! Let's do this again.

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