One of my greatest joys as an AmeriCorps member has been taking people into our beautiful natural spaces. Though, it does raise the question; why do we have to leave our home in order experience nature? Through the Eastside Pollinator Garden Project, I’m helping to change that by bringing nature straight to your doorstep.
Unfortunately, pollinators are disappearing around the world due to habitat loss. One-third of humanity’s food supply and at least 80% of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators. Now more than ever, pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds need our help.
In 2013, ESLT created the Eastside Pollinator Garden Project to encourage residents of Inyo and Mono counties to create and certify their own pollinator-friendly spaces with funding from Metabolic Studio and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ESLT AmeriCorps members at that time, Sara Kokkelenberg and Alison Amberg, turned to Columbia Land Trust in Portland, OR for advice based on their existing Backyard Habitat Certification Program, and created an advisory committee with our local Bristlecone Chapter of California Native Plant Society, Eastern Sierra Audubon Society, Master Gardeners, Chalfant Big Trees Nursery and interested ESLT supporters to review ESLT’s Eastside Pollinator Garden Project before it launched.
Today, all across Inyo and Mono county, people are taking action by opening up their yards and gardens to pollinators. One gardener involved in the project is Mary, a passionate conservationist and local green thumb. I recently had the chance to visit her garden and see all the work she’s done to certify. During our last visit, she shared with me a little story about how the project has changed her home:
“While working in my garden, I heard a rustle in the sagebrush I recently planted,” Mary tells me. “As I tip-toed toward the shrub for a closer look, a momma quail and her five goofball babies came scurrying out! I didn’t know if I should be startled or filled with laughter as they tumbled over one another in a hasty retreat.”
“Mary, have you ever seen quail before you planted those native shrubs over there?” I ask.
“Before I certified my garden? Never. In fact, I’ve never heard a peep back here. It used to be more like a ghost town. Now I have so many new neighbors like hummingbirds, finches and of course the adorable quail family that just moved in.”
When I visit someone’s garden, they often tell me little stories just like Mary’s. However, it can be a big undertaking to transform your typical yard into something abuzz with life. That’s why ESLT schedules a visit to give a guiding hand. My favorite part of my job is learning how each gardener plans to transform their unique garden. Some simply want to create a modest space for hummingbirds to enjoy and for native bees to flit about. Others have master plans to build mini nature preserves right in their backyard.
As the summer moves along, it’s exciting to see their gardening visions taking form. I feel lucky be involved in a project that the local community is so invested in. It has been a true joy to meet, dream and create with local gardeners across the Eastern Sierra. I look forward to my final visit to officially certify their gardens as pollinator-friendly habitat.
Thanks to the hard work of gardeners all over Inyo and Mono County, we will be certifying our 100th pollinator garden by August 30th!
Would you like to join the movement to support local pollinators? We are still scheduling consultation visits this summer to help certify your garden as a pollinator-friendly habitat.