We Were as Busy as. . . well, you know

2022 was a busy year at the 21 Acres pollinator gardens! We worked with volunteers from the community to plant two Hugelkultur beds in the demonstration pollinator garden, weed and maintain an existing spiral herb garden, and distribute and collect Mason bee houses.

A Brief History of the Pollinator Gardens
In the summer of 2020, volunteers at 21 Acres designed a demonstration pollinator garden with four beds. Two were planted immediately and two were covered in black plastic to solarize weeds and prepare for the next phase: building Hugelkultur beds.

The Hugelkultur Beds
What is Hugelkultur? It’s a centuries old process of building raised beds atop found wood and other rotted and/or compostable materials (which might otherwise end up in yard waste bins). The result is a low maintenance garden that requires very little water or fertilization; the gradual decay of wood provides nutrients and stores moisture for plantings over time.
In the fall of 2021, volunteers began constructing the two Hugelkulter beds. They removed the solarizing black plastic and with the help of a front-end loader dug two large trenches about two feet deep. Then they filled the beds with logs, branches and wood shavings, and covered them again to let the wood break down. On Earth Day in April 2022, volunteers shaped the beds that had been settling over the winter, topped them with compost and covered them with heavy burlap in preparation for planting in the fall. Finally, in September the volunteers stripped off the burlap (repurposing the burlap on the pathways) and planted over 200 pollinator friendly plants. In November, they added over 500 bulbs to the four beds.

Spiral Herb Garden
The spiral garden, originally planted in 2008, is located at a central crossroads on the 21 Acres demonstration farm. Its spiral design incorporates the healing properties of reflexology and is densely planted with kitchen herbs for the 21 Acres kitchen and farm market. The Pollinator Pathway team adopted the garden as an additional pollinator habitat and set about restoring it to its original beauty, with help from a donation from the Woodinville Garden Club and the team’s dedication to weekly weeding and mulching. Plans are underway to create a focal element that will attract visitors to the pollinator gardens and all that 21 Acres has to offer.

Mason Bees
Mason bees got their name from their use of masonry products, such as mud and cracks in stone to build their homes. They can also be found living in the hollows of stems and wood. Mason bees do not produce honey, but are great pollinators. The Pollinator Pathway team partnered with Rent Mason Bees and Crown Bees to distribute Mason bees to local farmers and growers to improve crops and expand the native bee populations. Over 30 Mason bee nesting boxes were built at the 2021 Sammamish Valley Fall Festival in preparation for distribution when the bees are needed to pollinate spring crops. Mason bees are active for 4-6 weeks in spring and then hibernated in cocoons. To ensure that cocoons will remain healthy throughout the winter, volunteers collect the hibernating mason bees in the fall and clean and store the cocoons so they can be ready for distribution to farmers and interested gardeners when spring crops need pollinating.
In addition to creating and maintaining pollinator habitats that sustain and nurture bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators, the Pollinator Pathway NW team is working on educational resources to engage everyone in caring for pollinators. The team looks forward to launching a website and creating written materials for table displays at farmers markets and outreach events in 2023. And of course, they are looking forward to getting back in the garden!