Archive | May 2016

Square Peg’s Pollinator Garden-Part 1

This is a two-part post on the development of our pollinator garden here on the farm. Much prep work has been done and now we just wait for plants and ‘proper’ planting time here in Zone 4a.

Like any good pollinator-conscious farmer or gardener, I make it a point to have a variety of flowers around that will feed the bees and butterflies. This year I’m going to take it to the next level and start a pollinator garden. It includes many native plants that are very nutritious for pollinators along with annuals, herbs and a few fun accents.

This winter a friend and I took the Master Gardener course offered through NDSU Extension. What a great program! I would highly recommend it for anyone with a love of plants. To be called a Master Gardener, one must complete the course and 48 hours of volunteer work over a 2 year period. There is an option to just take the course but it is pricier. This course really got me motivated for new projects around the farm, this pollinator garden being one.


This spring, when the snow melted off, I picked a site for the new garden that was previously very shady so nothing much had been growing there last season. Dave had taken out some existing shrubs and trees and it should be a great mix of sun and shade-there’s another first, this will be my first foray into gardening in a shady area. This area was dry enough in March to be tilled, so the ground was worked and tarps used to cover to suppress weeds.

This area will get a thorough mulching, maybe bordering on Lasagna Garden style. The last thing I need is more space that needs to be weeded! The first layer I put down was partially composted chicken manure/bedding. We use ‘deep bedding’ in our winter coop, adding fall leaves, straw and wood chips throughout the winter to absorb the nitrogen from the manure and give the chickens something to peck through to find seeds and bugs. This mixture of high-carbon material and manure starts to compost right under the chickens providing a bit of heat from the floor of the coop. Coming straight from the coop, this partially composted mixture will serve as an initial mulch layer and a soil amendment and will be topped with clean straw, hay or other clean mulch. This was put down in early April and continued composting on the garden site, under tarps.

Please note: this is NOT the way we add compost to a garden which will produce edibles. In that case the manure would be put into the compost pile to breakdown fully. This garden will have a few herb plants, but it is not meant to produce food crops.

As it’s a bit early calendar-wise, in our neck of the woods, I’m waiting to see many of the plants on my pollinator plan. Some are still growing in the hoop house on farm and some just haven’t shown up from the native plant nursery where I placed my order or in the local greenhouses. I ordered quite a few seeds for natives from Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona, MN and had a great experience with them. I have some native plants coming from Morning Sky Greenery in Morris, MN and just haven’t received them yet. But it’s May, in North Dakota. I need not be in such a hurry.

Here’s a short list of some of the plants that will inhabit this garden, many are native to our area and so provide good nutrition for our native pollinators.

  • Wild lupine
  • Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan)
  • Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)
  • Prairie Smoke
  • New England Aster
  • Royal Catchfly
  • Goldenrod
  • Golden Alexanders
  • False Indigo (Baptista)
  • Autumn Joy Sedum
  • Wild Columbine
  • Chives
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Trout Lily
  • Dutchman’s Breeches

This is a partial list, Part 2 of our pollinator project will contain a full list and photos of some of these great plants! Happy Spring!



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