In November 2015, Polk County Conservation received a Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP)- Conservation Education Program grant to work with 10 congregations to install native pollinator gardens at their place of worship. In addition to providing the garden designs and native plants, we educated congregations about pollinators and steps they can take at home to help pollinators.
Prior to the gardens being planted, Polk CC naturalists met with congregations to educate them about the project and the importance of pollinators. We wanted congregations to take ownership of the project and understand they were in a unique position to help pollinators at their place of worship. We chose to target congregations because they have land to provide habitat for pollinators and they care about what happens at their place of worship.
We created three different pollinator education programs for different audiences including adults, teens, and elementary age youth. Each program focused on who the pollinators are, why they are important, and what steps they can take to help pollinators. In April and May 2016, we conducted 16 pollinator education programs with 12 congregations for a total of 380 people.
As part of our grant requirements we surveyed the adult audiences knowledge before and after each program. Here are some comments from our surveys following the education programs:
“Did not realize the impact of pollinators on various foods.”
“I have planted for butterflies and hummingbirds but didn’t realize they were pollinators.”
“Very informative. Plan on planting many, many plants for pollinators.”
“Already ordered pollinator plants for this year after our first committee meeting about this project.”
Pollinator Garden Planting by Congregation Members
After the education programs, ten pollinator gardens were prepped and planted by congregation members in the months of May and June. Each pollinator garden was approximately 300 square feet and included over 200 plants. There are 18 different species of native perennial plants such as butterfly milkweed and purple prairie clover in each garden. The plants will provide a variety of blooms from spring until fall so there is always a nectar and food source for pollinators. Native plants were chosen because they are adapted to the local soils and climates, flourish without fertilizers, require less watering and promotes biodiversity in our landscape.
To make sure the pollinator garden is cared for in the coming years, a garden steward was selected from each congregation and a maintenance agreement was signed. Polk County Conservation will continue to be in contact with each congregation to provide future education programs or support for their native pollinator garden.
In September we installed a permanent educational sign about the pollinator garden at each location. We wanted to
educate people about the importance of the garden for years to come. We also held monarch programs with two congregations to celebrate their pollinator garden and its importance for monarchs.
Final Survey Results
We sent a follow up survey four months after the spring programs to see if they had taken any action to help pollinators. 78 surveys were sent out via Survey Monkey and 39 people responded with the following:
- 78% shared pollinator information with others
- 66% planted annuals that were pollinator friendly
- 60% grew a variety of pollinator friendly flowers which bloom from spring until fall
- 57% avoided using insecticides and herbicides in their yard
- 51% tolerated insect larvae chewing on leaves
- 40% planted milkweed or other native plants
Overall we are very pleased with the project. It was encouraging to see the congregations excitement about doing something good for the earth by adding habitat for pollinators. We also established a good relationship with many members in the metro area. An unexpected surprise is that the garden ended up being a great intergenerational project between youth and adults. We also educated an audience we may never have reached with our existing programming.
We had several partners in this project including Blank Park Zoo, Polk Soil and Water Conservation District, Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, Pheasants Forever, and Iowa Interfaith Power and Light.
Heidi Anderson is a Naturalist at Polk County Conservation