GardenWalk Buffalo, the largest garden tour in America, started right here on the West Side of Buffalo. Over 20 years ago about 25 gardeners founded the event as a way to change the image of their neighborhood and to proclaim to the world there was beauty and value here. While GardenWalk looked a lot different this year 5 Loaves Farm was still able to partake in one of the special programs they offer.
As the event grew, GardenWalk has been able to give out grants to community organizations for projects to improve and beautify their neighborhoods. This year we received one such award to install native plants along the “hell-strip”, or right-of-way between the sidewalk and the road. These plantings will not only help beautify the neighborhood but actually play an important role in increasing the fertility of the farm and our connections to our neighbors.
Even large scale farmers are now seeing the value of planting native plants in strips along or within their fields to increase populations of pollinating insects. Crops such as squash, watermelons, and most cucumbers all require insect pollination, and peppers, berries, and fruit trees all set more fruit when pollinated by insects. So these native plantings boost the number of pollinators in a field that in turn leads to an increase in the pollination of the crops being grown there.
We have selected native plants like phlox, butterfly flower (a milkweed), black-eyed-susan, bee balm, and echinacea whose pollen attracts bees, butterflies, and even some flys as pollinators. We have put in some native wild edible shrubs as well to add some variety, beauty, and tasty fruits as well. Some of these are the beach plum, adapted to growing on the salty dry sand dunes next to the ocean (which makes it well suited as a street planting) on Long Island and New Jersey; the “black-lace” and “lemony lace” elderberries, and white currants along with a juneberry shrub.
Planting these native species also usually means less maintenance, fewer fertility inputs, and less watering, especially planting plants adapted to growing in dry meadow habitats, or under some of the street trees, we find plants that normally grow in the forest under-story (i.e.; elderberries & juneberry).
So if you’re looking for something to do this weekend come visit the farm and see our new native plantings in the “hell-strip” along Delavan Ave. and check out the rest of the farm while you’re at it. You’ll be filled with awe at the beauty, creativity, and amazing community that is growing here on Buffalo’s West Side.