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So much is happening that I am having a difficult time making a space in my life to take time off from all the fun to write about it .  Thankfully, the rain has provided a little breather for this update on all the activity related to urban agriculture and healthy living that has taken place in and about Garland since I last posted. [Otherwise I would need to get my next post published as a book.]

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JULY is National Parks and Recreation Month

First of all, as a member of the Garland Texas Park Board, I would be remiss to not begin by reminding you that since 1985, America has celebrated July as the nations official Park and Recreation Month.

Visit this link http://www.nrpa.org/events/july/toolkit and download some information for your workplace bulletin board to remind folks of the importance of play and how much play they can find in their parks.

Here in Garland we have a fantastic Parks and Recreation Department who daily continue to show the world how to do more with less. 

The Garland Parks and Recreation Department is led by Jermel Stevenson, who is one of the most experienced and talented Parks and Recreation Department Directors in the USA. Jermel’s experience with urban life runs deep.  Growing up in the eighties and nineties in a single parent household in Detroit, Michigan, Jermel knows firsthand and remembers the importance of parks and their programs to kids who live in the inner city.   After finishing his education with a degree in Parks and Recreation management, Jermel worked as a leader in the Detroit parks system. Other park systems in his experience include Phoenix, Arizona and Rowlett, Texas.  

Stop in and visit with the folks who run your city’s Parks and Recreation Department.  Ask not what they can do for you (as they are most likely already doing it).  Instead ask what you can do for them.  Most Parks and Recreation Department needs are stretched way beyond their budget.  Volunteer some of your talented time and money if you are one of the lucky ones who have some.  Be sure and tell them that I sent you.  Celebrate the National Parks and Recreation month by honoring the folks who do so much to not only make your city beautiful but who also engage the youth of your community in a variety of healthy and educational activities.

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SUMMATION OF NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK – JUNE 28 2017

Members of Loving Garland Green are increasing our own awareness of pollinators and we hope to take our community on this important journey of learning with us.  To that extent, I attended a two-hour webinar hosted by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) on June 28.  This webinar was part of an all day event in DC that concluded National Pollinator week.

The webinar and conference addressed the following questions:

1.  Why is a national monitoring plan for native bees important?

[ If you don’t know already, pollinators and native bees in particular are responsible for one of every two bites of food we put in our mouths.  In dollar value, their annual contribution to our national economy is estimated at $3 billion.  AND we currently have very little data on native bees.  We think we have about 4,000 different species of them in the USA.]

2.  What kind of information/data is needed?

All kinds of information is needed.  Here are just a few examples: We do know that native bees tend to specialize in pollinating certain plants so we need to know what plants are associated with what types of native bees.  Activity of native bees is related to season and thus we need to know what native bees are active when.  We need information about their nesting activities. Etc.

3.  How would this information be used? This information could be used to establish habitats beneficial to native bees, to discover effective ways to attract the right kind of native bees to agricultural crops, etc.

MY PERSONAL TAKEAWAY FROM THE WEBINAR

I haven’t seen a report issued from this conference yet, but I will provide you with what I took away, based on presentations and participant comments:

1.  TRAINING OF ORDINARY CITIZEN SCIENTISTS IS KEY

We need thousands of people in the field to make observations in order to implement a national monitoring plan for native bees.  And by the way, this is where I think our Parks and Recreation Departments across the nation can assist us by implement more citizen scientist projects and activities as part of their Parks and Recreation programs.

2. DATA RELIABILITY AND QUALITY IS AN ISSUE

I remember from days of yore in computer science classes it was drilled into our heads:  “junk in junk out.”    It’s true.  The reliability, quality and ultimately usefulness of findings for any research are directly related to the quality of the data from which these findings are derived.

NOTE ON BOTH THESE ISSUES

Of course we will have to wait until we see the final bee application that is being developed and due for release this October.  But if this app works as intended, folks can take a photo of a native bee they see and it will record the location and a positive identification of the bee when can then be sent to NIFA for inclusion in their database on native bees.  [More detail on that App ] 

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Monarch tags from 2016.  [The tiny stickers are peeled off and affixed to the hind wings of the Monarch.  They neither hurt the Monarch nor hinder their flight.] They are tiny as you can see in relation to the penny.  However their codes convey a lot of information regarding the particular Monarch to which they are attached.  This information is also tied to a spreadsheet, completed by the person who tagged the particular Monarch.

ALL HANDS ON DECK FOR POLLINATORS IN GARLAND, TEXAS AND THE USA

In April of this year Garland, Texas won first place at Earth Day Texas.  This honor came with a prize of $5,500. 

Most of this money will be used for seeds to distribute among Garland residents to establish habitat for pollinators and Monarchs in particular.  However some of this money will also go to help citizen scientist pollinator-related projects at the Garland Community Garden—a pesticide-free sanctuary for pollinators.  Members of Loving Garland Green and residents of our community at large will be participating as citizen scientists in tagging monarchs as they pass through our area in September.   The Mayor’s office will use some of the funding to purchase the tags and during the month of August members of Loving Garland Green will assist Citizen Scientists in capturing, tagging and releasing Monarchs.  Last year our organization tagged and released 30 Monarch butterflies.

These tags and study are hosted by Monarch Watch http://www.monarchwatch.org who are among other research, are tracking the migration patterns of the Monarch from Canada to their winter location in the Mexican highlands.  This organization pay Mexican volunteers for each tagged monarch they recover.

Residents of Garland Texas are definitely doing our part to increase and restore habitat for pollinators and we are led by Mayor Athas on these efforts.  A recently published study has found that everyone has a role to play in restoring the eastern monarch population.  in addition to agricultural lands, the authors emphasized that planting milkweeds into other kinds of lands, including protected areas and urban and suburban locations, will be necessary.       

"Encouraging urban and suburban areas to participate along with the agricultural sector could create a crucial spark of public support and momentum for monarch conservation across the board,” said Laura López-Hoffman, a conservation biologist at the University of Arizona who co-authored the study.

Everyone has a part to play in the monarch recovery. You can make a difference for monarchs today, so find out how to get involved here. Research confirms that we need all hands on deck, including yours!

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Charlie’s pollinator habitat has a water feature we made from two clay pots with a bronze fairy in the center and colored marbles.

What does a pollinator habitat look like?

It does not have to be some large area.  In fact, by merely incorporating a few features into your existing landscape you could create a habitat for Monarch butterflies and other even more important pollinators such as our native bees.  Add a few native milkweeds and a few native plants such as Salvia greggi stuck in amongst your existing flowers.  Add a water feature that could be as simple as a flowerpot (drainage hole plugged) or a large pretty bowl.  I put new water in mine every other day to ensure no development of mosquitoes.  Of course if you wanted to be fancy, you could install a tiny pump. 

The point is that you can have a pollinator habitat by making only a few minor additions to your existing habitat.  Of course you can go hog-wild and create something on the scale of the Discovery Gardens if you like, but you don’t need to.

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Jane Stroud, President Loving Garland Green (LGG) harvesting beans from one of the 8 bean pots installed by LGG at the Garland Good Samaritans.  To date eight pounds of beans have been harvested from this urban container garden.

What does an edible urban garden look like?

Like the pollinator garden, an edible urban garden has as many faces as the people who create them.  It does not have to be a collection of 4 x 8 foot wooden rectangular raised beds (although it can be).  It might be a container garden with several or only one container.  It might be what was once the front lawn that is now all plowed under into a garden.  An urban garden could be a few cane poles supporting pole beans stuck in the midst of an existing flowerbed.

 

Garland Good Sam's flowerbed with three canes of pole beans growing - June 29, 2017

The photo above shows three of seven cane poles stuck a flowerbed at the Garland Good Samaritans are growing pole beans.  Seven canes growing pole beans can provide a family of four with enough green beans from June to the first frost.  They require little care but you do have to harvest them almost daily or they will stop producing.  Unlike some urban gardens, this one is extremely inexpensive to begin.  It requires cane poles that you can get free from a vacant lot (with permission of the owner); and a $2.50 packet of organic pole bean seeds.  These seven poles with their pole beans at the Garland Good Samaritans are expected to yield at least 25 pounds of beans from June to the first frost.  At an average of $2.50 a pound for organic beans, the dollar value of produce from this garden would be $62.30—fairly decent return on investment.

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TWO BIG MILESTONES AT THE GARLAND COMMUNITY GARDEN

Lettuce in July?  Maybe.

Yesterday, thanks to information I got from Jane, LGG president, on growing lettuce in 105 degree weather in Phoenix, I planted a bed of lettuce in the shade in the Garland Community Garden.  I will have to see it to believe it. If I do, I’ll be sure to post photos of it.

Installation of Drip Irrigation Grids

 

Jane, Charlie and Burgi unroll some of the emitter tubing.  Garland Community Garden July 1, 2017

Today  (July 1) was the day we scheduled the installation of the drip irrigation grids for the beds at the Garland Community Garden.   We were lucky for a window of time with no rain from 9AM to 11AM.  As always the Margaret Mead principle was in full force. [“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."]

Jane, Burgi, Charlie and I showed up and started the build.  First we installed a drip grid for one side of the loffah tunnel.  Next we installed the grid for the Multicultural bed.  Just as we were finishing up the Multicultural bed Anita and Cheryl joined us.  Shortly thereafter it began to rain.

It’s all OK. Those of you who didn't care to brave the rain, or who had other plans this morning will still have opportunities to work with us at a later date.  Our plan is to build the drip irrigation system in stages, beginning with construction of the grids in the beds.  We will likely be finished with the construction of the grids near the end of July as we have a lot of beds in our garden.  The next stage will be digging the narrow trenches for the main lines.  For this build we will rent some power equipment for digging the trenches.  We are hoping to complete this build in two to three days.  The last stage will be the installation of the timer and connection to the mainline at the faucet (About an hour).

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