We know that pollinators are in trouble. Native bee habitat is declining. Colony collapse disorder of honey bees is forefront in the headlines and the debate over pesticide use on butterfly populations continues.
As University of Georgia (UGA) Extension’s Community and School Garden Coordinator I work primarily with food gardeners. Pollinator issues directly affect food production. Increasingly, community gardeners are seeing a decline in crops, such as cucumbers and squash, that rely on pollinators. Some are even hand-pollinating! The Pollinator Spaces Project was designed to help.
The Pollinator Spaces Project encourages gardeners, especially community and school gardeners, to create or expand pollinator habitat in their gardens. It is easy, fun, and rewarding for anyone to participate (learn, create and share!).
Step #1: Learn about pollinators and pollinator habitat. Gardeners learn about creating pollinator habitat through resources on the Pollinator Spaces Project website and through face-to-face workshops and events given by local Extension personnel.
Step #2: Create your pollinator space. Gardeners create their pollinator habitat in whatever size, shape and design they choose.
Step #3: Share photos of your garden with UGA Extension. As pollinator spaces are created, gardeners send me photos of their created space to be posted on our Facebook page. Participating gardens are sent a certificate of participation.
The photos are collected and used to assess project evaluation. Also a Georgia map of newly created pollinator spaces is planned.
The i-Three Corps team has already been helpful in refining how I will conduct evaluation. Also, the team is helping me create a digital storyboard that will help me tell the story of our project.
The project will be implemented during 2016 but the project planning began almost a year ago.
- The Pollinator Spaces Project website was developed that houses digital resources and lists events and workshops. Promotional materials were developed.
- Research done at the UGA was used in conjunction with research done at other research universities to develop a suggested plant list.
- An artist assisted in designing seed packages and cosmos seeds were ordered to be distributed to gardeners at events. The artist also designed a special certificate that is unique to this Extension project.
- During the growing season of 2015 I took photographs of pollinators and pollinator plants to use during 2016. I also created short videos that I will post on my weekly Community and School Gardening blog, the website, and our UGA Community and School Garden Facebook page throughout 2016.
- I met with agents across the state to explain the project and elicit their support and promotion of the project. The project was designed to not only be a state-wide initiative but to promote the local Extension office as well.
- I met with possible collaborators outside UGA to see how we could partner.
- I volunteered to speak about the importance of pollinators and the project at groups such as the Environmental Educational Alliance of Georgia and Georgia Organics. Basically, I have volunteered to speak to anyone who will listen!
Spring gardening begins in late March and April across the state of Georgia. Hopefully, all preparation and promotion of the last several months will result in gardens being planted shortly. We have events and workshops planned throughout 2016 and we will be anxiously awaiting our first garden photos! Stay tuned and I will let you know how the project progresses!