Gardening

Luring Birds to Pocket Gardens

Wilmette Park District’s Centennial Prairie Garden. photo | courtesy
Wilmette Park District’s Centennial Prairie Garden. photo | courtesy 

Pocket gardens have become a kind of clarion call, signally environmentalists and everyone keen to restore a semblance of balance in the biosphere and on behalf of Mother Nature.

According to Mary Stout, chairperson of a North Shore neighbourhood gardeners group, the Little Garden Club of Wilmette (Illinois), “Pocket gardens have become part of a national (and even international) environmental movement.’’

Mrs Stout said pocket gardens can be found springing up everywhere and people can establish them in window boxes and in pots on patios.

They can also look for neglected or unused patches of land, such as alley ways and begin tending those spaces and planting prairie seeds.

“We’ve been encouraging people to look at the alleys in their home areas and start planting indigenous plants there,” she said. “We’ve seen indigenous prairie plants springing up in pocket gardens all over the alleys of the North Shore,” added Charlotte Adelman, co-author of ‘Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees’ with Bernard L. Schwartz.

Now flowers, fruit vines and leafy green vegetables are increasingly beautifying and filling up areas that were once seen as spaces where garbage bins and old cars were stored.

They are also areas where home-made compost is used to fertilise those tiny patches, ensuring they produce prairie plants in plenty.

The Little Garden Club advocates creating compost, the organic fertiliser made with food leftovers, including vegetable and fruit skins, stems and stalks as well as biodegradable paper products (no plastics) like toilet rolls.

These are all mixed together and left to ferment for several days. After that, the compost gets spread all over one’s pocket garden, thus ensuring the plants grow quickly.

Ms Adelman has taken the concept of the pocket garden and expanded it to create the half-acre Centennial Prairie on derelict land on the west end of her town.

The retired lawyer turned lay ecologist is committed to restoring indigenous grasses, flowers and shrubs that once grew naturally.

Reconstructing the prairie’s original habitat means that indigenous plants will attract local bugs which in turn will serve as special foods consumed by the birds and butterflies that once populated the area but disappeared when buildings destroyed the wildlife’s natural ecosystems.

Ms Adelman says she began developing her prairie garden in 2015. An expert advised her on which native plants and seeds could flourish in that specific sandy soil.

Pointing out everything from Butterfly Weeds, Aromatic Asters and Virginia Bluebells to River Oats, Canadian Wild Ginger and Switch Grass, Ms Adelman is proud that the prairie plants now flourishing on their garden patch have already begun attracting native bugs and birds.