Driggs Dragon Garden
Meet the Driggs’ Dragon Gardeners. They are a junior garden club that I was lucky enough to create at our local school, H.R. Driggs Elementary, here in Salt Lake City, UT. What a wonderful experience it has been so far! The principal of the school, Mike Douglas, and one of the teachers, Alison Jueschke, have been very supportive of the idea: to get the children interested in gardening and expanding their knowledge of and interest in the natural world around them.
The really big project that we are centered upon is replanting the courtyard that is in the center of the school. In September, October, and November we worked really hard enriching and redistributing the soil and planting spring bulbs and various perennials. There are only 20 children in our garden club, but we have managed to include most of the other classes in our planting projects, thus making the school children feel that they all have an investment in the courtyard.
We have been very lucky with donations and help from other sources: members of the local garden club, parents, local gardening stores, Ames Tool Company, and the University of Utah’s Red Butte Garden facility, Earth Community Garden, and the funds from the school to name a few.
This has been a wonderful experience. I would highly recommend that other clubs reach out to our youth in this fashion. Using resources from the National Garden club such as The Frightened Frog book, The Ecology Warrior, Be a Wildlife Hero, and Protecting our Pollinators, we are expanding and developing curriculum for the junior gardeners.
As the New year approaches, we are planning on developing additional concepts about pollinators and the pollination process. We will also be developing a better understanding of amphibians, using The Frightened Frog book as our core. We are hoping that our garden club will influence the rest of the school and community to care more for our planet and its inhabitants.
-Connie MacKay, 1st Vice-President
The Sugar House Pollinator Garden
As part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, the neglected landscape in front of the Sugar House Garden Center was renovated and replanted with flowering plants in the fall of 2016. We're pleased that the home of the Utah garden clubs will now be contributing to the well-being of our native and domestic pollinators. Here are some simple steps to make your own yard a pollinator garden:
- Plant things that bloom, including annuals, perennials, shrubs, and flowering trees. The most useful flowers are natural or wild varieties rather than highly cultivated, hybridized varieties. For example, our native Woods rose, with its five petals and its tuft of pollen-bearing yellow stamens, is better for insects than a hybrid tea rose, whose stamens have been converted into extra petals by many centuries of breeding . Hybrid tulips are beautiful, but they are not used by bees at all! There is nothing wrong with colorful tulips or fancy roses, but if you want to help our pollinators, plant some of the "wilder" looking flowers as well.
- Do not use pesticides on your flowering plants! Even systemic pesticides, designed to be absorbed through the roots, will end up contaminating the pollen as well and poisoning the bees. Learn to tolerate a little damage to your plants, and reserve the bug spray for wasps and ants that are attacking your home, children, or pets. Spraying pesticide all over your yard will not only harm pollinators, it will also kill many beneficial predator insects, resulting in an outbreak of pests such as spider mites.
- Do not use "weed barrier" fabric. This is a textile that was designed for the construction industry and was never meant to be applied to the ground surface. Our native Utah bees do not form large hives; instead most of them nest in small holes that they dig in the ground, and weed barrier blocks them out completely. Furthermore, the fabric keeps nutrients from being recycled back into the root system of your landscape plants. Instead, the nutrients build up along with dust and silt blown in by the wind, and you end up with weeds growing on top of the barrier!
Visit the National Garden Clubs website to learn more about the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.
Park City Hill Penstemon Garden
Park City Hill is an area overlooking Park City, directly behind our three in-town schools (Park City High School, McPolin Elementary School, and Treasure Mountain Middle School), and behind our school district office and the North 40 soccer fields. Adjacent also are some wetlands where students learn about aquatic plants and animals. Park City Hill is a much visited destination for trail running and dog walking. There are lots of people, but only on the trails. This location is most visible from far away and already has a nice sprinkling of penstemons in remote areas.
Our Garden Club wanted to increase the amount of penstemon on this very visible hillside to provide native flowers for bees and other pollinators. The hillside has sagebrush, rabbit brush, and mountain mahogany. It is frequented by deer, elk, and moose, as well as foxes. Penstemons, which thrive in native, rocky soil and need little water and care once established, would be an ideal specimen on that particular spot. It will also introduce the citizens at large to these colorful flowers as the trails are used by many hikers, which increases their enjoyment.
On March 1st we made penstemon balls at our Park City Garden Club meeting. These balls consist of very fine red clay powder, organic compost, and penstemon seeds. We added some water and formed the gooey mass into balls. We dried the balls in egg cartons and planted them in late spring. They have not been watered or cared for since then, but the rain and snowmelt will break them down and cause the seeds to germinate.
We were helped with our project by Recycle Utah, which holds a native plant sale every year, and by the Park City Municipal Garden Department, and we wish to thank them for their efforts. We are excited to see the results of our labor. We as a garden club try to increase awareness of native plants for pollinators, but especially bees and butterflies.
--Brigitta Wray, 2016 Park City Garden Club President