How to Plant a Habitat Garden at the Local Playground

I've described how our circle of San Francisco families have launched a number of neighborhood projects--and in the Shareable article "Urban Butterflies," my pal Olivia Boler describes how started we started a group to explore the lifecycles of bees and butterflies and to introduce our kids to basic ecological concepts. 

This month, our "Bees and Butterflies" group went to the city and asked if we could plant a community garden in a strip of dirt available on our neighborhood playground, Noe Courts. To our surprise, the city said yes--and all the photographs here depict our kids planting the garden on a cloudy Saturday afternoon. Here's how we did it:

Step one: Contact the city

Our friend Karen Curtiss contacted the San Francisco Recreation and Park department, which offers a list (including emails and phone numbers) of neighborhood service managers who are the best points of entry for this kind of project. Their site is extremely user friendly, and so were the department staff, who walked us through the process of lining up the permits and resources. You can, of course, do the same in your city.

Step two: Take a gardening class

Karen set up a special class at Independent Nature, a local nursery that specializes in native plants and organic herbs and veggies, where the grown-up members of our group learned the basics of habitat gardening--a type of garden designed to support wildlife.  

"The focus of a habitat garden is to provide food, water and shelter in an attempt to imitate nature," says Beth Saiki, the closest thing our "Bees and Butterflies" group has to a leader. A habitat garden is not just an aesthetic flourish, she says; it responds to real ecological needs: "The habitat of honeybees and butterflies has been shrinking, with the overuse of pesticides among other factors. This has lead to sharp declines in these pollinator populations."

click here to read the rest of the article by Jeremy Adam Smith