North Garland High School Key Club and members from Loving Garland Green after plant installation—October 8, 2015
Stage Three: Plant Installation completed!
It took approximately 10 hours of work after school for the North Garland High School Key Club, with the assistance of Loving Garland Green members, to prepare the soil and install over 70 plants in five beds in front of their school.
These plants include a mixture of host and nectar plants to attract all pollinators—and especially butterflies. We were very fortunate to obtain all these plants. Had we paid full price for them, they would have cost approximately $800. As it turned out, these plants cost Loving Garland Green about 44 cents each. One of our local nurseries had a sale about a month ago on plants—all you can carry away in your truck for $50. (We did not plant all the plants we obtained at North Garland High School—some are now in the Garland Community Garden and others still waiting for a home.)
So Easy, a small child can do it! Friday Morning—the day after plant installation: Charles Bevilacqua (Loving Garland Green board member) and grandson Brett water the new transplants at the North Garland High School Butterfly habitat. These plants will be watered every day for the first two weeks as we are expecting 90-degree days. After that watering no more than once a week will be necessary until they go dormant.
Garden Constructed for Minimal Maintenance Effort
Any garden is an ongoing affair. One never really completes a garden after it has begun unless it is abandoned. A garden is a collection of many living organisms—billions if you count the microbes in its soil. Loving Garland Green will continue to construct all urban gardens that we build—whether butterfly habitats or vegetable gardens—in ways to minimize human labor and to conserve resources.
These initial five beds at North Garland High School were constructed following a design we call “modified hugelkultur.” We dug out the beds; put some large logs already in the process of decay down; covered the logs with organic matter; and then amended the original soil with Azomite, molasses, expanded shale and Perlite. This amended soil was placed back in the bed on top of the organic matter.
We are also adding small wire compost baskets to each bed. These baskets will be fed vegetable scraps and watered. They are a form of in-bed composting. The decaying vegetables, like the decaying logs on the bottom will provide water and nutrients for the plants.
Also, to further minimize work, most of these plants are native perennials. Since we got these plants from a nursery and at such a good price, there are a few exotic varieties mixed among our Texas natives. A couple of these plants were $40 each. We’ll see how/if they survive. All of them are supposed to be suited for our Plant Zone 8.
Stage Four to Come: Milkweed Hugelkultur Build
For this project, which we hope to complete by the end of October, we would like to construct a proper hugelkultur bed. We will use logs already in stages of decay and will soak them in water prior placing them on top of the bed. By spring this bed may not need to be watered. Most report the hugelkultur does not need to be watered after the first year.
The hugelkultur will be about three feet high when completed.
We still need to work out the details regarding our sources for obtaining and delivering the necessary materials to the site:
- Rotting logs
- Brown organic matter (about four leaf bags full)
- Green organic matter (two leaf bags full)
- Cow, Chicken or Goat Manure (five 5-gallon buckets of it)
- Mulch that is almost compost (about ¼ cubic yard)
- Compost (about ¼ cubic yard)
- Garden soil (about 1/8 cubic yard)
- Texas native milkweed seeds and plants.
- Texas wildflower seeds
Our reasoning for constructing this bed is twofold: 1) We want to ensure that we have enough milkweed (host plant for the Monarch and those from 300 other species of butterflies called the “milkweed butterflies” who choose to visit our habitat and 2) We want to introduce our community to the possibilities of hugelkultur gardening in our area which is often under drought alert. The hugelkultur is particularly appropriate for urban gardens and small truck farms whereas it might be more problematic for large-scale farming.
Texans, in particular, need to take a leadership role in conserving and enhancing habitats for Monarchs because Monarchs travel across Texas in the fall when migrating to the Mexican highlands and then back again across Texas in the spring when they migrate north as far as Canada. We need to make sure they have a habitat that will assist them in completing their lifecycle process and thus in continuing their existence as an important species who support human life by pollinating many of our food sources.
Texas Parks and Wildlife has produced a statewide conservation plan for the monarchs that will help guide their efforts. Texan by Nature is bringing private landowners, businesses and faith based groups to plant Monarch habitat as part of their Monarch Wrangler initiative. (Texan by nature was founded by former First Lady Laura Bush. This organization promotes the mutual benefits of economics and conservation by building relationships between people who use natural resources and the people who know how to plan and implement realistic conservation practices.)