What’s up with the Cardboard in the Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat?

The parkway, grassy area between the sidewalk and the street, is completely covered with corrugated cardboard. This is the first step of lasagna gardening for the future pollinator habitat at Keeler Gardens.

Pollinator Habitat Progresses

We promised you regular updates about the pollinator habitat and we do have news.  Let’s start with the apparent mess in the parkway. You may be wondering why it looks like a random dispersion of debris, rest assured there is a method to our madness.

The parkway, grassy area between the sidewalk and the street, is completely covered with corrugated cardboard. This is the first step of lasagna gardening for the future pollinator habitat at Keeler Gardens.
Cardboard laid out preparing for pollinator habitat

Our parkway is presently mostly grass and to build the pollinator habitat in that space the grass needs to be removed.  One way to prepare a bed is to till it, cutting up all growth and turning it back into the soil. We wanted to avoid this process because it is actually detrimental to the soil at a microbial level.  We don’t want to disrupt the living aspect of the soil.

Another way to remove grass is to use a sod cutter.  This would slice off a layer that would include the grass, most of the roots, quite a bit of soil, and possibly a significant amount of the organisms in the soil, which are critical to soil health and, in turn, plant health. That seemed somewhat wasteful and disruptive to the ecosystem so we wanted a better option.

What we are doing is similar to lasagna gardening.  We are killing the grass by layering corrugated boxes over it. This does not have nearly as negative an impact on the microbial life in the soil, and the grass degrades back into the soil which is another plus. The cardboard will also degrade into the soil, faster once we get a top layer of organic material covering it.

Since this image was taken we have learned that People’s Gas will be doing some work in our area. We are uncertain how this will affect our plans, but we are fortunate the work is being done before we do any planting.

We will keep you updated as plans progress. Our next post will include an updated plant list so you can see all the wonderful flowers to expect this summer!

Keeler Gardens Wins Pollinator Habitat Grant

Have you heard the news? Keeler Gardens has won a grant to build a pollinator habitat! The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation has awarded us up to $10,000 toward the creation of a native pollinator habitat to provide environmental education opportunities for students, and all community members. We will offer visitors to the habitat an experience with Illinois native plants in a year-round refuge for pollinators, that will perform from early spring through late fall. Here is a before image of the space we will be preparing this spring for installation, hopefully, early this summer.

This "before" image of the site for the planned Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat shows the parkway at Keeler Gardens in the early 2018. THe parkway is mostly grass with two green ash trees and a few existing plantings.
Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat “Before”

We are so excited and are moving forward rapidly. The first step is a design. We created this preliminary design and await approval. All plantings are label by number. “E” plants are already part of the space, and will be incorporated into the habitat design. New plantings are color coded by season, purple for early bloom, grey for mid-season bloom, and yellow for late blooms. Greens denote grasses (light) or shrubs (dark). Outlines indicate the height of full grown plants from thin (12” minimum height) to thick (4-6 ft maximum height).

The design plan for the new Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat shows both existing and proposed plantings. Existing are label by number with “E” to denote they are already part of the space, grouped mostly at the top of the design (east side) and will be incorporated into the habitat design. New plantings are drawn as circles, color coded by season, purple for early bloom, grey for mid-season bloom, and yellow for late blooms. Greens denote grasses (light) or shrubs (dark). Outlines indicate the height of full grown plants from thin (12” minimum height) to thick (4-6 ft maximum height). New plantings are scattered throughout the design to fill the space. Also included in the design are proposed structures like boulders, benches, water features, and trellises.
Keeler Gardens Pollinator Habitat Proposed Plan

Also included in the design are proposed structures like boulders, benches, water features, and trellises. Stone will be used for edging and as steppers, and will be added at installation to accommodate the design as it evolves.

Here are a few of the plants we hope to include, with their identifying number referenced on the design:

3 Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
5 Cream Wild False Indigo (Baptisia leucophaea (bracteata var. leucophaea) (NGN))
6 Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis (NGN))
7 White Wild Indigo (Baptisia leucantha (NGN))
8 Common Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis (NGN))
15 Kobold Gayfeather (Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’)
16 Rose (Swamp) Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata (NGN))
17 Common Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata (NGN))
18 Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum (NGN))
19 Anise Hyssop (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’)
20 Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica (NGN))
21 Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
22 Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)
23 Turtlehead (Chelone glabra (NGN))
24 Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
25 Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
26 Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
27 Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea (NGN))
28 Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis (NGN))
29 Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens (NGN))
30 Violet Bush Clover (Lespedeza violacea (NGN))
31 Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum (NGN))
32 Pasture Rose (Rosa carolina (NGN))
33 American Hazelnut (Corylus americana)
34 Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis (NGN))
35 Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

We will continue to report on progress with the project, community events in support of the effort, with updates throughout the spring and summer. Follow us here on our blog, on our Facebook Page, and sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch.