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People’s Garden: A lesson in pollination

New garden will include native perennial prairie plants

PRINCETON — Motorists traveling on the east edge of Princeton will hopefully see an increase in the number of butterflies, hummingbirds and honey bees in the coming weeks.

A group of area volunteers met Saturday to plant a “People’s Garden” garden on the green space at the intersection of East Peru and Sixth streets, near the Princeton Public Library.

Project organizer Ellen Starr, a biologist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office on East Backbone Road in Princeton, said this is the first year to have a People’s Garden in Princeton. The garden was planted with all perennial native prairie plants, as well as one redbud tree. Since she lives in Princeton, she’s been looking for ways to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of pollinators and to teach people how pollinators can help on their own properties, Starr said.

“This garden is a food plot for pollinators, like honey bees, native bees, butterflies and hummingbirds,” Starr said. “All the plants in the garden have a high value for pollinators because their nectar has a high sugar content. (Not all flowers provide high sugar nectar). This is an educational garden demonstrating the native plants that provide high energy nectar or food for the pollinators.”

The importance of pollinators can’t be overlooked, Starr said. One in every three bites of food which people eat has been pollinated by an animal. Most vegetables are a result of being pollinated by an animal pollinator, she said.

With its location near the Princeton Public Library, the library can use the garden for educational sessions, Starr continued. For example, Starr is giving a talk at 6:30 p.m. July 10 about gardening with native plants and the importance of pollinators.

“Pollinators are in peril, and this garden provides an excellent tool to increase awareness, and not to mention, beautification of the city of Princeton,” she said.

As far as the expense of Saturday’s project, Starr said the Bureau County Pheasants Forever Chapter funded the majority of the plants and a portion of the sign. Prairie Moon Nursery donated 57 bare root plants. The Bureau County Soil and Water Conservation District ordered the 2.5 inch potted plants and provided them to the People’s Garden at their cost.

However, Saturday’s planting of the garden is only the beginning of this project, Starr said. There will be continued maintenance (weeding) and thinning, deadheading old flowers, etc. Hopefully, area residents will come forward to volunteer to help with that work throughout the  growing season and for years to come, she said.

In announcing the start of the People’s Garden program in 2009, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said pollinators are needed for the reproduction of 90 percent of flowering plants and one third of human food crops. The People’s Garden program was named in honor of President Abraham Lincoln who had established the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1862, originally calling it the “People’s Department.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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