Volunteers Plant a Pollinator Garden

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Butterflies and bees need plenty of native, flowering plants to survive. On Saturday, Sept. 29, volunteers helped Park District staff expand the pollinator garden at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots, transforming unused areas of the property into habitat for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Planting a sassafras tree

Sassafras and persimmon trees, ninebark shrubs, silky asters and many more species will provide a native landscape that will bloom successively from spring through fall.

A $1,000 grant from Trees Forever, a nonprofit based in Iowa and Illinois, is partially funding the seed, plants and trees for the project. Work began in June 2018 with a small team of volunteers joining staff in planting of some of the trees, shrubs and perennials. The Sept. 29 team finished the project in time for the fall growing season.

Park District staff mapped out three areas of the Garden Plots property for the native plants:
1. A turf area with a few non-native trees on the north edge of the Garden Plots bordering Sportsman's Park

A "before" picture of the non-native area

An "after" picture of the native flowering tree and shrub garden

2. An area where plots had not been rented for a few years

"Before" - Unused plots had become turf in 2017

"After" - Raking in the prairie seed, Sept. 29, 2018

3. The area along the fence line, bordering the parking lot, where prairie grasses already had been planted.

"Before" - Fence line garden in 2017

"After" - Fence line garden in fall, 2018

One fine Saturday...a recap of the successful September 29 project

Several groups of volunteers converged at 8:30 a.m. to work on the project. Girl Scout Cadette Troop 70233 from Heritage Grove Middle School brought 6 girls. They had been looking for a project that involved trees, to gain hands-on experience after their recent work on a trees badge that involved designing a tree house and a tree park. Two volunteers from North Central College staff, a volunteer from Naperville Evening Kiwanis, and another resident who has volunteered for a variety of park projects joined the team, led by Naperville Park District staff member Beth Meyers.

Volunteers on Sept. 29

Planting the north border garden: Volunteers dug holes for the potted trees and shrubs, including sassafras, persimmon and Kentucky coffeetree, ninebark shrubs and silky aster plants.

One of the girl scouts planting a ninebark shrub

Planting prairie seed in the unused plot area: Volunteers scattered prairie seed mix over approximately 1/4 of an acre that had been prepared by Park District staff. Next, they raked in the seed, laid down an erosion blanket and filled in the remaining area with straw, finishing with a thorough watering of the area.

Raking in the seed

Laying down the erosion blanket

Filling in the spaces with hay

Watering the seed

Thank you, volunteers!

What's next at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots
As the prairie seed becomes established over the next few years, the Park District will continue watering it regularly, and will mow to control weeds. Additional volunteer help in hand weeding would help maintain the quality of the prairie. Interested in volunteering next year? Check for project timing and sign up as a Park District volunteer at https://www.napervilleparks.org/volunteer.

Trees Forever will provide a sign educating visitors about the pollinator habitat improvements at the Garden Plots.

Ron Ory Community Garden Plots Gleaning - Mon., Oct. 15

Volunteers are needed to help glean the leftover produce at the Garden Plots to donate to Loaves and Fishes. Contact Volunteer Manager Lynnette Hoole at lhoole@napervilleparks.org for details. Volunteers of all ages and abilities are welcome to help anytime between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Monday, October 15.

Pumpkin Smash - Sat., Nov. 3

The Park District will host its second annual Pumpkin Smash on Saturday, November 3 from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Drop off your leftover pumpkins, carved or uncarved, to be composted directly into the soil at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots. Volunteers also are needed for this event. Details and volunteer registration will be available at https://www.napervilleparks.org/volunteer.