Just as a butterfly is known for its metamorphosis from an egg, to a caterpillar, to a pupa and finally emerging as a butterfly, a local garden is being transformed into its next stage. In 2012, East Cooper Land Trust partnered with several local groups and individuals to create a beautiful Butterfly Garden at the beginning of the Marsh View Trail off Rifle Range Road. The dedicated group of volunteer Master Gardeners who care for the garden, recently decided the garden should be curated for all pollinators. In celebration of this strategic shift and of Pollinator Week, the public is invited to the garden on Wednesday, June 19 at 9 a.m. to meet with Master Gardeners and learn about the importance of pollinators.
According to the USDA, 80% of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators to produce seeds, fruits and vegetables, and are responsible for a third of all the food we eat. The natural effects of water and wind move some of the pollen grains from place to place, but essential pollinators include more than just our declining population of butterflies and bees. Pollinators also include birds (such as hummingbirds), mammals (including bats), and even reptiles (like geckos). Since many of these creatures need a pollen or nectar reward for their own well-being, their different textured bodies (covered with hairs, feathers, fur, or scales) transfer the pollen grains to other parts of the flower for fertilization. Thus, pollination is a win-win-win situation for plants, little creatures and us.
Unfortunately, the population of pollinators is decreasing because of industrialization, globalization, climate pattern changes, and the loss of feeding and nesting habitats. Plus, disease, pollution, and chemical misuse are also taking their toll. It’s tough being a pollinator, and as our world continues to change, our environment needs everyone to pitch in and help.
Some volunteer Master Gardeners are doing their part by cultivating this community Pollinator Garden, starting from the ground up. Healthy soil is essential and can be analyzed by Clemson’s Agricultural Service Laboratory to determine its proper pH and level of nutrients. For more information about having your soil examined, check in at the Master Gardener kiosk either at Mount Pleasant or the Downtown Farmers’ Market. It’s a great resource to help with all your gardening needs. You may also go online to hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/soil-testing for complete instructions on how to take a soil sample.
In addition to healthy soil, pollinator gardens need other types of care. During the garden’s spring clean-up, volunteers sorted through the old plant debris and either buried or removed the diseased bits. Healthy debris was retained as ground nesting sites for some pollinators. Nesting bees are getting a safe box to encourage their participation, as well as a couple of bird baths to supply fresh water.
As for adding to the collection of plants, more native species are being included. Although the garden already has some typical passionflowers, bee balms, coneflowers, and pink muhlygrass, new additions are being chosen for their ability to provide an array of flowers that will bloom from spring to fall. Plus, the gardeners are clumping them closer together to create large patches of color, so pollinators don’t have far to go. The online document, Native Plants for Your Backyard from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides great suggestions for shrubs, trees, vines, grasses and wildflowers that are appropriate to the Southeast. Another helpful resource for attracting pollinators is hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/pollinatorgardening. Using native plants cuts down on watering and maintenance.
No article about beneficial pollinators would be complete without addressing the issue of insects whose behavior can either cause damage, or simply be a nuisance. In the Pollinator Garden at Marsh View Trail, we strive to be pesticide free, knowing that healthy, well-cared-for plants are stronger. If you must use pesticides however, the Pesticide Task Force of the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) provides useful tips in their brochure, Solving Your Pest Problems Without Harming Pollinators. Also, for ideas about using other alternatives in pest and disease-free yards, check out clemson.edu/factsheet/incorporatingbeneficials.
It’s important to contribute to the countrywide efforts of reviving the health of pollinators since they are necessary in the fertilization process which affects our seed, fruit, and vegetable production. Please join us on Wednesday, June 19 at 9 a.m., or for a self-guided walk, or use some of the recommended techniques in your yard. If you are interested in volunteering at the garden, please contact Jackie Ashbaugh at firstname.lastname@example.org.