What is that plastic square held down by sandbags in the field near the Washington Park parking lot? No, it’s not an alien landing pad—it’s the first step in establishing a pollinator garden! We are “solarizing” the existing plants, mostly invasive grasses and forbs, to kill them without using herbicides.
Solarization involves using heavy-duty plastic sheeting to trap heat and kill invasive weeds. It is a slower process than using herbicides but does not have the long-term impacts on insect and animal life that are documented with herbicide use. This is especially important in a floodplain near Salem Creek. Solarization is is most effective during the heat of high summer, but a few plants are already turning brown, so it’s beginning to work!
The Gateway Nature Preserve has retained landscape architect Sprigg Parker for the garden design. Sprigg will focus on a layout and native plant groupings that are beautiful and functional, as well as providing a setting for humans to appreciate the butterflies, bees, and other insects and birds. We also want to inspire visitors to support pollinators in their own gardens.
The pollinator garden project is made possible by a generous donation from Joshua and Julie Sutter of West Salem, with matching funds from Joshua’s employer, Lincoln Financial Group. Joshua was one of the original founders of the Gateway Environmental Initiative and was instrumental in negotiating the purchase of the Gateway site in 2014; we are very grateful for his and Julie’s continued commitment to our growth.
A big thanks also to Ram Tool Construction Supply Company of Greensboro for donating the plastic sheeting and sand bags for the solarization project.
Watch for updates on the layout and plant choices!