By Andrea Cordle
If you build it, they will come.
That is why Franklin County plans to build a pollinator garden, so the bees will come.
Earlier this month, the Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District awarded the county $1,300 in grant funds to build a pollinator garden at the International Harvest Community Garden, located at 1919 Frank Road.
According to Darla Reardon, assistant director with Franklin County Public Facilities Management, the grant would cover the initial cost of the seed mix of native Ohio prairie grasses and wildflowers. The grasses and flowers planted in the garden would attract pollinator insects, birds and small mammals.
The project would begin with the removal of non-native and invasive plants. The county will contract with a local farmer to till the soil several times this summer. Seeding will be complete this fall. The seeds used will provide a vibrant sequence of 22 different wildflower blooms to support pollinators throughout the seasons.
Reardon said it might take three years for the garden to reach maturity.
“This garden will restore balance,” said Reardon. “Anything we can do to promote bees and pollinators are important.”
In recent years, the bee population has dwindled. Almost half of the country’s food supply depends on pollinators.
Franklin County Commissioner John O’ Grady said that is why this garden is vital to the community.
“The Franklin County Commissioners have long been committed to supporting local food producers and encouraging the local food movement,” he said. “The creation of a pollinator garden is another great opportunity to expand upon the efforts already underway to increase the availability of fresh, nutritious and locally sourced foods.”
O’Grady was instrumental in the county getting involved with gardens.
He said that several years ago he was talking to some members of the Somali community, who shared with him their desire to find a place to grow their own produce.
“I realized there was a need,” said the commissioner. “I also realized the county had available property off Frank Road.”
The pollinator garden will be about one acre in size, and located adjacent to the community garden.
O’Grady said those who have plots and grow vegetables in the community garden are sure to benefit from the pollinator garden. He said it could even benefit those with a garden in nearby neighborhoods.
“This will help everyone in the area,” he said.
O’Grady said he is often asked why the county would spend money on gardens and beehives.
“I believe it is the smarter money we spend,” he said.
The county has registered this garden as part of the initiative the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.
The goal of this effort is to expand the habitat available for species that pollinate fruit and vegetable crops. It encourages individuals, schools and community groups to revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.
First Lady Michelle Obama is behind the initiative. The goal is to plant one million pollinator gardens by the end of 2016.
O’Grady said he hopes this will inspire individuals to plant pollinator gardens in their own yard.
“It can only help.”
To further support efforts to benefit the bee population, the county is exploring options for adding beehives to properties near the pollinator garden or other areas in the county.
Tilling at the pollinator garden site is expected to begin later this month.