What’s been going on!
For days now we have been awaiting the weather Armageddon which, thankfully, has missed us and hopefully will continue to do so. Always before these big rain events we are trying to make sure that things are planted and projects rounded up that might be on hold for some time until things dry out. We did finally get the last of the tomatoes in the ground that we couldn’t get done on Friday due to way too much lightning from that set of storms.
The big push this week has been getting ready for and coordinating the planting of a very large (a quarter acre) pollinator plant trial. We have been cooperators in a lot of research projects here at the farm over the years and always learn a number of things by doing so. Generally they have been studies that fit into or look at crops that we are already growing so the interruption of our normal flow is minimal. This one, not so much the case.
Referred to us by the NC Botanical Garden, the large national non-profit Pollinator Partnership contacted us in late winter to see if we would be interested in being a site for one of their first large pollinator gardens funded by Burt’s Bees who is trying to increase wild bee habitat in the US by 10,000 acres. The conversation went like this “How much area are you looking for?” “An acre or so”. Gulp, “not possible, maybe a quarter acre?” “Well that would work, can we come and look?” “Sure.”
Some weeks later the project leader comes in from California to do several site visits. We get a few details as to timing and what they are trying to do with these early gardens, they tell us they will make their site selection decisions soon and let us know. We hear nothing and figure we are off the hook. Five weeks ago the phone rings, it is the project coordinator asking if a late April planting day will work, I reply “I assume this means you have chosen us to be cooperators?” “She says yes didn’t you get the email?” Uh, no. So here we go the race is on.
The plan was to install perennial plants (25 or more species) to be observed for 3-5 years to see which ones attracted which wild pollinators, when and how well they survived in the conditions. One of the ultimate goals is to come up with recommendations for plants and procedures so that farmers can reasonably plant pollinator habitat on their farms. In a perfect world we would have known a year in advance so that we could have turned over the grass sod to kill it and spend that time reducing the weed populations that always appear in newly turned ground. Four weeks not optimal to say the least. We say the only way it will work is if we can mulch them heavily (3” minimum) to help keep the weeds at bay. Last Thursday 60 yards of mulch and 2000 plants arrive, that is a lot of shoveling and the rains are coming!
There is very little info from the project folks and we have no layout plan and not enough mulch to cover the whole area so I make an executive decision as to design and spacing so that on Monday when I have my class of 16 students here they can help us move mulch. We got half of it done Monday morning before the project folks show up to plant. The four project people arrive but they say ten more volunteers are coming. No volunteers show and Armageddon is coming. Tuesday becomes a very long day of moving mulch and planting but the rains held off and by early evening all the plants were in the ground. We think this project has some good potential to gather information about the very important problem of pollinator loss but remind me next time to ask more questions before signing on.
Picture of the Week
Impending rain, a bit more mulch to move but all planted. There is even more area on the other side of the rows of shrubs.
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