I don’t know about you, but I have found this year’s gardening season to be very frustrating. Too much rain so early in the season, mixed with the odd hot and cold weather has made my garden plants very unhappy and unproductive. Even the weeds have given up. But, for gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts, hope springs eternal. Several of our staff are already pondering and plotting for next year’s growing season, both at home and for work. The last few weeks we have been working hard to maintain the native plants that are established in our conservation park at the Delaware County Fair so that it is ready for all the visitors coming in the next few days. Native plants are beneficial to pollinators; in the park we have several varieties of milkweed along with compass plant, cup flower, herbs, bee balm, coneflowers, blazing stars, rattlesnake master, and more.
There are many reasons to plant natives. First, natives are beautiful, and their beauty is not just “skin deep.” According to the Tallgrass Prairie Center at the University of Northern Iowa, “Hidden deep underground, the massive root systems of prairie plants often extend deeper into the soil than the stems that rise above it.” To see a jaw-dropping photo of native plant’s stems and roots, visit their website at https://tallgrassprairiecenter.org/prairie-roots-project. These incredible roots hold our precious topsoil in place, preventing soil erosion and sediment transport into our streams and lakes.
Native plants are suited to our weather. They can tolerate our cold winters, our hot summers, and need very little maintenance once established. Now that our fair park project is established, our native plants are thriving and require very little care. Native plants provide food for all kinds of pollinators, as well as important shelter from severe weather and predators. Right now, our new milkweeds at the fair park are mere stems due to feasting by monarch caterpillars.
Milkweeds are the only plant that the monarch butterfly will lay eggs on. They also serve as a food source for monarchs and other pollinator animals. The disappearance of milkweed is a major contributor to the decline and endangerment of the monarch butterfly across the United States. You can help monarchs and other pollinators throughout Ohio by collecting common milkweed pods.
Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District is serving as a collection site of milkweed pods as part of the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (https://www.ohiopollinator.org/), a nonprofit organization working to improve and create pollinator habitats in the state of Ohio. When participating in this fun and helpful project, make sure that you’re collecting common milkweed pods and not a similar plant like hemp dogbane. Pods should be dry and gray or brown in color. Green pods are not ready for collection. The best way to store milkweed pods is in a paper bag with the collection date written on it, and in a cool and dry area until they can be dropped off in the collection bin outside of our office.
For more information on our milkweed pod collection program, contact the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. Please visit our website at SoilAndWater.co.delaware.oh.us or call us at 740-368-1921. We will be collecting pods through October 31, 2022 at our office at 557-A Sunbury Road in Delaware.
Sarah Kidd is the communications & outreach coordinator at the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to https://soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/.