Saturday, December 5, 2015

Encouraging an Insect Garden

My son John spreading mulch

My son Ben mulching our raised bed weed garden

We continue to grow and expand the outdoor learning center here at North Shore Elementary School.  Our latest venture is to develop a garden for butterflies and other pollinators and various insects and birds that might be interested in landing.  As some of you may know, I've been raising monarchs at home and in my classroom for the past several years.  Students and I have been enjoying observing and learning about this amazing insect.  We have a small milkweed stand in front of our school that has become a great resource for not only the monarchs and other insects, but for curious students as well.  (I profile this a bit in a previous blog.)  I thought it might be fun to develop a garden devoted to milkweed and native nectar plants and see if we can expand our hospitality.  We have a small field that is not mowed just beyond our trails that seemed like a good location.  Ilse (monarch expert and wife to Russ our bird expert) suggested that we brush hog the area, put down cardboard, cover it with mulch and let it sit for a year.  The goal is to stop the grasses from growing and then plant milkweed and other plants directly into the mulched area.  Thanks to the help of several good people the garden is underway!  The field was brush hogged by Jim (he was the inspiration for two of the eagle scout projects a few years ago as well).  I gathered all the cardboard I needed from the food service at North Shore (thanks to Amy, Girard and Mike).  The city generously donated mulch (thanks to Brian, Don and his crew).  And my two sons, John and Ben, helped spread mulch both on the future garden and on our weed garden.  Ilse came into my class and planted milkweed seeds in pots with my students.  The pots are sitting outside for the winter and will hopefully grow into seedlings that next year's fourth grade class can plant in our new garden.  I hope to add a border next fall and plant a variety of nectar flowers in addition to the milkweed.  At that point I will need additional volunteers and donations.  The amazing thing is... I think I will find the support and we will have started a garden devoted to insects!

It's a small project, this outdoor learning center, but it continues to quietly grow in the backyard of the school and in the marginal spaces on the property.  Thank you so much to everyone who supports and helps with this project!  For me, it is more than a couple of trails, an outdoor classroom and some gardens.  For me, it is a validation that what I believe in and what I try to teach is supported by wonderful, generous people.  Thank you.  

Students in our outdoor classroom