Pollinators, tips sought in urban gardens project

2012-11-11T00:00:00Z Pollinators, tips sought in urban gardens projectElena Acoba Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

How does your garden grow?

Probably not without the help of pollinators, an endangered group of animals that affects food production worldwide.

An international urban garden project that includes Tohono Chul Park hopes to grow a crop of young experts on pollinators and sustainable gardening.

Their efforts hope to yield tips for creating successful urban gardens.

This week Tohono Chul Park, the St. Louis Zoo and the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi will launch the P.A.U.S.E. Project, funded in part by an $86,000 grant from Museums Connect.

P.A.U.S.E. stands for pollinators, art, urban agriculture, society and the environment.

A team of 17- to 22-year-olds in each city will learn about pollinators, plants that attract them and the importance of urban gardens as sources of fresh food.

"What Tohono Chul Park is bringing to this is the agriculture, heirloom crops, native foods," says Jo Falls, the park's director of education and visitor services.

Using social media, video-conferences and personal visits, the teams will share information about their locations' gardening conditions and practices.

Each team will then develop urban food gardens with pollinator habitats for its specific location.

The Tucson group will expand Tohono Chul's ethno-botanical garden by adding Kino heirloom fruit trees, which were propagated from colonial Spanish-era plants.

The eight team members also will tend the park's monsoon garden, which irrigates crops using only rainwater, and build a demonstration garden at Native Seeds/SEARCH's office on East River Road.

All three gardens will have plants that attract pollinators. They will include an artful sculpture that also acts as habitats for native bees.

Finally, the team will develop a pollinator identification guide to distribute to the public.

"Our overall goal is increased interest in what's happening with native pollinators," says Falls, "and make people more conscious of what they eat and where their food is coming from."

Two of the Tucson team, whose members were selected in an application process, say the educational aspect attracted them to the project.

"It's everything I want to do with my life, teaching others about being sustainable and protecting the environment," says Lauren Nichols. The 22-year-old Tucson native is a University of Arizona student of conservation biology.

Meagan Horman, who studies environmental water resource economics at the UA, hopes to show why gardeners should want pollinators in their gardens.

"I think it's something a lot of people don't understand, how interwoven life is," says the 22-year-old Chandler resident. "It's a delicate balance."

P.A.U.S.E. for a moment

You can learn more about the P.A.U.S.E. Project at a website that Tohono Chul Park plans to launch soon. A link will be available on its website, tohonochulpark.org

Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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