The Recorder – ‘Planting for Pollinators’ sows idea of creating gardens for insects

GREENFIELD — Greening Greenfield’s “Planting for Pollinators” event Saturday afternoon sowed the idea of insect-friendly gardens in its participants’ minds.

The event, held at Just Roots, brought 15 people together to plant a pollinator-friendly garden designed to help at-risk insects such as bumblebees and butterflies. Attendees also brought home two nursery kits of their own — one for the sidewalk or one for a garden — to encourage pollinator habitats around the region.

Elizabeth Erickson, a member of Greening Greenfield, said it was great to have members of the community come out and learn about pollinator gardens. She noted everyone picked up the techniques so quickly and it is such a simple process.

“It’s really amazing what a group of people can do in a short period of time,” Erickson said. “I’m amazed at how easy it’s going.”

Small, numbered flags marked where attendees needed to dig holes to plant the “plugs,” which are small plants. Each number corresponded to a different plant, of which more than a dozen different species ranging from goldenrods, lupines and various grasses were planted.

Just Roots’ Director of Farm Operations Meryl LaTronica said this garden will serve as the model for how pollinator habitats will look around the farm as it works to establish more. She added this form of community gardening is her favorite part about Just Roots’ operation.

“Our goal is for every field to have a permaculture hedgerow (a closely knit row of shrubs and other plants),” LaTronica said to the group. “The greatest joy is making nooks here to be used by other people. I can’t wait to see how this grows and changes.”

Each plot was created by a process called sheet mulching, which is done by digging up the current vegetation, placing a material such a ram board or cardboard over the plot, and then throwing either compost or topsoil on top of it, according to Greening Greenfield member Dorothea Sotiros. A knife or other sharp object is then used to cut through the material to allow the plugs’ roots to reach the soil below the new layer.

The event brought together gardeners of all skill levels, with some just starting out and others who have been doing it for decades.

Gretchen Green, of Greenfield, said she is somewhat inexperienced when it comes to gardening and she thought this was a good way to learn more about it while also helping the environment.

“I am fairly novice,” Green said as she was planting wild lupine. “I’m trying to learn and trying to get less grass in my yard and more pollinators.”

The process was simple. A hole needed to be dug at each flag with each number indicating a different kind of plant. Then some water was added to both the hole and the plug before it was planted.

Gail Healy, also of Greenfield, attended with her husband as a way to learn more about this completely different style of gardening.

“We gardened, but we didn’t really know about this,” Healy said. “I can’t wait to go home and read more about it.”

Healy said she wished she had been creating pollinator habitats before because it’s helpful for the environment.

“I may never mow the lawn again,” Healy said laughing. “I’m just sad, I’m so old and just hearing about it. I think it’s something everybody should be doing.”

A pollinator habitat does not look like the average vegetable or flower garden. Many of the plants look like small shrubs or weeds and can be off-putting to people, like Greenfield resident Teresa Kim.

“It’s hard coming from a vegetable garden to plants that look like weeds,” Kim said. “This has been very helpful.”

To offset the wild look of these plants, Greening Greenfield was working off a specific design created by Evan Abramson of Landscape Interactions, which was created to be more visually appealing. Erickson said it’s special to see this project come together after a process of research, art design, propagation of plants and community gardening.

“I’ve never done anything like this,” Erickson said. “It’s been a real adventure.”

Greening Greenfield member Linda Smith described pollinator gardens as “landing pads” for insects like bees and butterflies.

“It’s easier for them to find what they’re looking for,” she said.

Others, like South Deerfield resident Marie Thomas, joined the event to ensure a better future for her grandchildren. Thomas has been a lifelong gardener and hopes more people take up pollinator-habitat gardening.

“I feel more desperate as I get older. We’re fighting for their lives,” Thomas said. “Anything you can do to ensure there is a future.”

Thomas added that climate change is an existential threat and more people need to join environmental protection efforts.

“The apocalypse is coming,” she said, “but these people are planting flowers, not buying guns.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.–sows-idea-of-creating-gardens-for-insects-42805501