Prairie Rivers of Iowa Installs Pollinator Gardens in Ames and Boone

by Watersheds and Wildlife Coordinator David Stein

In early 2020, before everything shut down, we had received a $2500 grant from the Alliant Energy Foundation to install 2 pollinator gardens in Central Iowa.  Unfortunately, a few months after that grant was received, everything needed to be put on hold indefinitely.  However, as we entered 2021, we were finally able to get started on this grant and get some gardens in the ground.  Before we were able to start planning, we had to narrow down the potential locations for the gardens.  Being an Alliant Energy Foundation Grant, we needed to stay within their service territory.  Here, two cities stood out to us due to their populations, foot traffic, and need for pollinator plantings, these were Boone and Ames.

Bumble Bee on Purple Coneflower

By reaching out to both the Boone Parks Commission and the Ames Parks and Recreation Department directly, we were able to locate plots to install our pollinator plants.  In Boone, we picked a patch of turf in Cap Erbe Park, while in Ames, we were given a fairly open garden site in Northridge Heights Park.  For plants, we wanted to make sure everything was Native to Central Iowa, particularly Boone and Story Counties.  After some research, we decided to go with Prairie Moon Nursery’s Tallgrass Prairie Garden set, which included 14 species, all native to the area.  We ordered one set for each garden, leaving us with 76 plants to install!

The Ames site at Northridge Heights Park required the most work, not only were there ornamental plants that were already there, a young overgrown Oak Tree needed to be trimmed back, a weed mat needed to be cut through, rocks needed to be moved, and the clay soil needed to be dug up.  However, after a long, hot morning of intense gardening, I was able to get all 38 plants in the ground.  The Boone site by comparison was much easier, the sod was removed, and the soil was tilled before I arrived.  Boone Parks Commissioner April Burch was also there to help dig and plant the young plants.  All that was left to do was make sure everything stayed watered through the June drought.

Rick Dietz Bee House Donation

Moving forward with these gardens, there is still quite a bit of work to do.  Informational signs describing what we put in the gardens need to be designed and installed, and bee houses generously donated to us by Rick Dietz need to be set up.  Additionally, the native plants will need to be trimmed back in the late spring, and seeds will need to be collected in the fall.  We’ll also need to keep an eye on the plants as they flower to see what pollinators stop by to use them.  Moving forward, I would love to donate garden sets to cities or counties here in Central Iowa over the next several years, however, I don’t think I’ll be the one digging and planting!