School Pollinator Garden

(Question)

Hi there, I’m a primary teacher running an Ontario Eco Schools program. I’m in the process of transforming a sandbox into a small pollinator garden. I was wondering if you could help by suggesting easy growing/maintaining plants. The sandbox receives mainly morning sun. Would you also let me know how I should prepare the soil for the sandbox. It is empty of sand…should I simply start adding potting soil or should I layer it with something else? Thanks so much for your help! Also, any suggestions as to where I can get plants at a reasonable cost. Your help is appreciated!

(Answer)

Congratulations on joining the Ontario Eco Schools program. Educating children on the values endorsed by the program is so important for the future of the environment. Every little bit helps.

The principles for preparing the sandbox are similar to those used for creating a suitable growth environment in a raised garden bed.

Soil depth should be at least 12″ to support root growth and water retention. If the sand box is shallow with its sides resting directly on the ground, it would be beneficial to dig up this surface and amend the soil with organic matter before adding new soil. If the sandbox has a solid bottom, drainage holes should be added.

Begin by lining the box with newspaper or landscape cloth, then add a mixture of equal parts topsoil or triple mix, compost and manure. Premixed soil for use in raised beds is available. A layer of mulch on the soil will help retain moisture and discourage weed growth.

You’re correct to think about the amount of sun your location receives when deciding which plants will thrive in your garden. You should also keep in mind the water requirements of your potential plantings, especially if the garden will be unattended during the summer vacation.

“Save The Bees” is now a familiar phrase. It applies to native bees rather than honey bees that are non-native and kept commercially for honey. These bees are either solitary or live in colonies. They make their nests in hollow logs, dead  trees or burrows in the ground.  Some plants require a specific bee for proper pollination. For example, tomatoes can only be effectively pollinated by the Bumblebee. Other bees visit a wide variety of flowering plants. Filling your garden with drought tolerant native plants such as Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) and purple cone flower (Echinacea purpurea)  will bring native bees to your garden. For more information about pollinators and plants consult the following:

http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/guidecategories/pollinator-gardens/

http://feedthebees.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/A-Landowners-Guide-to-Conserving-Native-Pollinators-in-Ontario.pdf

https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/create-pollinator-friendly-garden-birds-bees-butterflies/

The Toronto Master Gardeners cannot recommend specific outlets selling native plants, but many local organizations are holding plant sales in the next few weeks. You may be eligible for this free offer from the City of Toronto.

https://www.toronto.ca/services-payments/water-environment/live-green-toronto/tips-to-create-a-pollinator-friendly-garden/

Good luck with your garden.