Monarchs group pushing for A.L. pollinator park
Published 9:00 am Sunday, May 1, 2016
Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang
For the past year I have dreamt of putting in a pollinator park here in Albert Lea, and that dream is finally come true. Over the past few months I have organized a group called Save the Monarchs of Freeborn County that has been embraced by an enthusiastic group of people. Like me, they also realize just how important it is to save not only the monarch, but all of our pollinators.
The group first met in February and plans were made to become a visible entity that promotes the planting of milkweed. Milkweed planting has seen a 90 percent decrease since 1992. No milkweed equals no monarchs. The milkweed plant serves as a host plant for the monarch caterpillar. It is where they lay their eggs and about two weeks later those eggs will hatch and eat the milkweed leaves. The milkweed is their only source of food.
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We have been handing out seeds free of charge to people interested in saving the monarchs. We will be at the farmers market in May, Wind Down Wednesdays and the Freeborn County Fair teaching people about monarchs and planting milkweed.
In March our group was invited to join the Albert Lea Audubon Society and become a committee within its organization, giving us 501 (C) 3 status to help with fundraising for our group. When people donate to our cause, it will give them the benefit of using their donation as a tax deduction.
Fast forward. After talking with the county commissioners, meet the mayor with Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. the first Monday of the month, speaking on KATE Radio with Paul Shea, going before the city council and finally the Park and Recreation advisory board, this dream is a reality. The proposed site location is east of the new pavilion at Edgewater Park here in Albert Lea. Thank you to all of them.
During the month of May we are putting in a butterfly/pollinator garden at the Audubon Preserve at the end of Oregon Street. The garden is a memorial legacy garden that is funded privately and with funds from the Save the Monarchs committee. If anyone is interested in helping with the digging of holes, planting the plugs and watering this garden, please feel free to contact me as this is a big undertaking that will prepare us for when the pollinator park is planted in spring 2017 at Edgewater.
Why is this pollinator park so important, you are probably asking? Because we have had a decline in monarchs and bees, as well as many other pollinators, and we need to stop and take action right now to help save them. One of every three bites of food is pollinated by bees, butterflies, moths and birds. For our farmers, over 75 percent of their crops need pollination. Fruits, trees and vegetables we plant in our gardens need pollination to produce a crop. If you drink coffee or love chocolate this should definitely be concerning to you, as both of these crops need pollinators.
Not only do we need people to plant milkweed, but we should also plant native species of perennial plants, trees and shrubs for them. In our flower gardens we also need nectar-rich plants. Zinnias, marigolds, bachelor buttons, tithonia, Joe-pye-weed, rudbeckia (black-eyed Susans), alyssum and pussy willow are some of their favorites. It is important to plant only untreated, non-GMO, open-pollinated seeds and plants free from neonicotinoids, so ask about this when you purchase your plants at the garden centers before you buy.
This one is going to get some of you riled up, but stop spraying your lawn with chemicals. Dandelions are the only source of nectar available for female bees in early spring, so if you spray your yard you are killing them. Also, don’t use chemicals in your gardens. Yes, I know everyone wants a beautiful and weed-free lawn, but maybe it is time to think about what you and your family are going to be eating in a few years if we don’t have pollinators.
Our pollinator park will be planted in spring 2017 and it will take three to five years for it to fully mature and benefit our pollinators. Now you see why we need to take action right now! We all need to be responsible and help save them, and we will do this one milkweed at a time and one garden at a time. Please join me in this very important project, donate your time, your talents and yes, your money. We will be paying for this with a grant, but there are many incidentals that it will not cover.
Carol Hegel Lang is a green thumb residing in Albert Lea. Her column appears weekly. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.