By Katrina Vaitkus
The Oklahoma County Conservation District (OCCD) in Oklahoma recently held two Pollinator Prairie Workshops as a part of a larger Pollinator Prairie Workshop Series. Kevin Mink, the urban soil health specialist for the district, had the idea to launch this project, hoping to do experiments to help people learn how to transition a property to a pollinator prairie.
“There’s a growing desire to bring conservation into a more urban setting,” Mink said. “A lot of people ask about how they can build their own little pollinator prairie. A pollinator garden is a very simple, concrete, measurable thing that you can do in your own backyard.”
As Oklahoma is on the monarch’s migratory path to Mexico, establishing pollinator habitat is a popular project in the area. “If we improve monarch habitat, we’re most likely improving habitat for other pollinators as well,” Mink said.
“There has been a ‘waking up’ to alternative land management,” he said. “People are starting to move away from our very traditional landscape style and favor something that’s a little more eco-friendly. People want to have that connection to nature, even in urban settings.”
The OCCD project has three pilot sites, with each site hosting six plots: five experimental plots and one control. The five experimental plots include a clean-tilled site, herbicide site, vegetation smothering site, solarization site and over-seeding site. There are a few other partial sites as well. All seed used in this project is a native mix of annuals, perennials and legumes, intended to give a full season of blooming.
The first workshop, titled “Pollinator Prairie Land Preparation,” was held on September 18 and taught volunteers how to prepare land for pollinator plants using different methods to remove and/or control prior vegetation. The second, titled “Prairie Seed & Hay,” was held on October 26 and gave volunteers the chance to learn how to seed native species into the prepped landscapes.
The series is not over yet, as folks are eagerly waiting to see how the plots turn out in the spring.
“Starting in the spring, we’ll monitor the sites and track the vegetation changes,” Mink said. “We’ll be doing workshops over the growing season to track those changes, talk about the results we’ve seen in each plot, and hopefully get some useful data for people to start saying that this is an effective way to create a pollinator garden.”