Summer roundup: gardens #12 and 13, soil study launch, the maps! And more…

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Corcoran Pollinator Project has had kind of a slow-burn summer this year due in part to three of our core team members, including me, being wrapped up in fieldwork and other travels much of the season. However, we did manage to put in two gardens so far, we have a full garden installation roster coming up, and we have some cool collaborations in the works.

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In June Liz, Ellie, and I worked on adding native pollinator plants to Ellie’s garden (above). In return we received tons of Ellie’s native violets to share with other gardens.

In July, Kassie Brown of Renaissance Soil came to Corcoran to take soil samples of yards and gardens for a pilot study on the relationship between above-ground and below-ground biodiversity. Do native perennial gardens improve soil health? Stay tuned!

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The soil study is the first step in a larger project to map soil health and biodiversity across the neighborhood. We hope this data can be added to the neighborhood garden biodiversity maps we started last year, which, speaking of, are ready for viewing:

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Here’s a screen shot. These maps are based on a survey of about 1,000 front yards in Corcoran and show the number of species in people’s gardens, whether or not they have native species, and whether they have room to add a pollinator garden. The idea is to be able to more easily visualize habitat density and connectivity in the neighborhood and to see where we can most usefully target our installations in the future. These maps wouldn’t exist without the expertise and generous help of University of Minnesota spatial data analyst and geographer Melinda Kernik–thanks Melinda!

If you want to play around with the map layers, check out the map app here. (Click on the layers icon in the upper left hand corner).

Speaking of people we are grateful to, many thanks to Elaine Klaassen of the Southside Pride for writing this lovely profile of the project, which appeared in last month’s Southside Pride edition.

Finally, here are some photos of our most recent garden installation at Kate’s house:

Thanks to generous plant providers Cynthia, Kevin, Deb, Leanna, and Ellie, we were able to plant 15 species including liatris, showy goldenrod, echinacea, heliopsis, columbine, bee balm, swamp milkweed, and a native sedge. Kate’s boulevard was already partially cleared because she was fixing up an empty spot left by a tree removal. There was a lot of extra soil built up–I saved some to use experimentally in seed starting for next year.

That is the bulk of the news from the summer. A couple other tidbits of note–we hosted Terry’s talk about getting started gardening with native plants at the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization office in August–I forgot to take pictures, but we might host a repeat later in the fall. We have streamlined our garden request and volunteer sign-up processes. And, we have seven more installations planned for September and early October.

Thanks so much to everyone who’s participated in the project this year! Happy gardening!

 

 

 

spring things!

So far this spring the CPP team has been laying the groundwork for another season of urban habitat creation.

Sixteen species of native perennials planted last winter by Terry, Anne, and Daphne are up!

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Gardens we planted last season are looking pretty good! Hannah and I did a check up on eight of the gardens and found that most of the plants came back and in most gardens weeds are still suppressed. Our mini-nurseries are having mixed success.

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We got some donations! Local landscape architect and CPP volunteer Leanna Sweetland gave plants including echinacea, liatris, and Joe Pye weed, along with one million pots for starting more plants.

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We did some outreach at the Midtown Farmers Market!

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Coming up: The unveiling of the neighborhood biodiversity maps! A permaculture group is growing plants for us! A zine of Minneapolis weeds! Our first garden installation of the season is in one week!

Mini-nurseries!

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This past week we started miniature nurseries in five neighbors’ yards to get a head start on seedlings for next year’s gardens.

Hannah donated part of her vegetable garden. We planted zigzag goldenrod, foxglove beardtongue penstemon, golden alexanders, Canada milkvetch, and wild quinine.

Cynthia had a perfect spot in her yard where she had already killed the grass in order to install a patio next year. We planted Canada milkvetch, Joe Pye weed, wild quinine, silky aster, butterfly weed, one of the blazing star species, and the penstemon.

Daphne has a great seed starting set-up and a shadier garden, so we planted some shade-liking plants including cardinal flower, wild leek, big leaf aster, penstemon, and zigzag goldenrod, plus meadow blazing star, butterfly weed, and amsonia.

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Kim volunteered a section of her garden for pots of plants including Culver’s root and echinacea.

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While I was planting seeds at Kim’s, Anne happened to walk by and mentioned that her son, who lives next door, had a patch of dead grass from some roofing materials that had been left on his lawn. She offered the patch as a seed-starting spot. It’s right next to the pollinator garden we planted there in July! It has now been seeded with plants including two kinds of milkweed, stiff goldenrod, and leadplant. Thanks, Anne and son!

 

 

Neither I nor any of the mini-nursery hosts had started perennials from seed before, so it will be exciting to see which plants do well. All of the seed we used was gathered from gardens in the neighborhood. Many seeds came from Julia’s garden, and Cynthia and Terry also contributed seeds.

One thing that helped our seeding efforts was having taken a field trip to Terry’s lab to clean and count them. Terry, our neighborhood’s resident botanist, has a massive garden experiment underway in his backyard and needed to know how many seeds of each plant he was working with, so we used the lab’s sieves and scale to separate seeds from chaff, then used published values to estimate our seed numbers, which ranged from 110 (Amsonia tabernaemontana) to 20,145 (Penstemon digitalis). Terry donated his extras to CPP–thanks, Terry!

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On October 15 we had our last garden installation of the season at April and Simon’s.

 

Simon had already prepared the site, and April had plants ready to go, so it was mostly a matter of popping them in and eating banana muffins.

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April and Simon’s yard is somewhat shady, so we used a lot of shade-loving and shade tolerant plants including cardinal flower, meadow rue, columbine, harebell, bishop’s cap, big-leaved aster, penstemon, and alum root.

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garden #10

On September 30 we had our tenth gardening day at Peggy’s.

Peggy had already started a large garden on the side of her house, so we filled in with plants including anise hyssop, echinacea, obedient plant, golden alexanders, penstemon, black-eyed susans, and sedge.

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Garden #9

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We had our ninth group gardening day September 23rd at Sandy’s house.

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This weekend we planted a garden in the boulevard at Jeanell and Ben’s place.

About eight neighbors planted white asters (possibly Symphyotrichum lanceolatum), monarda, culver’s root, ironweed, stiff goldenrod, smooth ox eye, obedient plant, sedum, and yarrow, all donated by generous neighbors Cynthia, Nancy, and Kari (thanks, neighbors!).

Most of the plants are at the end of their life cycle and look pretty terrible, but they should come back strong next year. One question that came up was about whether goldenrod is bad for allergy sufferers. According to the U of M, this is a common misconception and it is actually ragweed that is the main culprit in fall hay fever. Here‘s an article about it.

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Here’s the mulched garden before we cut some of the tall plants to encourage them to establish their roots. You can almost imagine how it will look next year–beautiful!

 

garden #7

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We had our seventh gardening day last weekend at Kyla’s!

This was another boulevard garden. During the sod-removal phase we unearthed our first piece of city infrastructure–the pipe to the water shut-off valve–and thanks to a quick 311 call we learned that everyone has one somewhere in the boulevard, and it’s ok to garden around them. Phew!

Thanks to our generous neighbors Julia, Dillon, and Cynthia we had thirteen species to plant, including heath aster, monarda, hoary vervain, virginia waterleaf, golden alexanders, sedum, stiff goldenrod, ironweed, rudbeckia, yarrow, wild senna, and partridge pea. It’ll be fun to see these plants get established over the next few years!

One cool part of the day was getting to talk about how we are tied to the land through food. Kyla’s house is the urban partner for Racing Heart Farm, and Kyla has several food projects going, including raising rabbits, which we got to see.

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All in all another fun and educational gardening day!

 

garden #6

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On Tuesday we had our fifth garden installation (sixth group gardening day) at Katie’s!

Katie opted for a boulevard garden–the first one on her block– so first we removed the sod. Like many yards in Corcoran, hers had the soil replaced in the 2000s because of arsenic contamination. We found some netting under the grass–evidence of the sod replacement.

After a thorough watering we planted about 15 species of plants, including spiderwort, ironweed, echinacea, bee balm, liatris, anise hyssop, yarrow, rudbeckia, and virginia waterleaf. All the plants were donated by neighbors (thanks, Julia, Kim M., Dillon, Cynthia, and Marissa and Lindsay!).

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Although early August is not the ideal time to transplant, hopefully with a little extra watering most of these tough prairie plants will do just fine.