Native insect pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, wasps and flies, are crucial in helping to produce fruits and vegetables and serve as pest control on many farms. In 2017, the College’s Extension unit received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to construct gardens of native plants to attract these insects, evaluate the survival and growth of native plant species on an ongoing basis, and assess the plants’ attractiveness to native pollinators and other beneficial insects.
The project, headed by Associate Professor and Extension State Specialist Heidi Kratsch, allowed Extension to build six demonstration gardens at both the residential scale and in agricultural settings around the state. The gardens are located at the Extension office in Washoe County, the Extension office in Elko County, Jacobs Family Berry Farm in Gardnerville, a housing development in Las Vegas, the Lost City Museum in Overton and the Walker River State Recreation Area in Yerington. A seventh garden is in development at the proposed Truckee Meadows Nature Study Area in Reno.
“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 90 species of U.S. specialty crops, such as pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and fruit trees, require pollination to produce food products for human consumption,” Kratsch said. “Wild and managed bees together add $15 billion in crop value each year. Attracting and protecting pollinators protects our food supply, and that is our ultimate goal.”
In addition, Extension Integrated Pest Management Programs Educator Kevin Burls began teaching classes at the Lost City Museum location. The first class was held in early 2019, with another held in October 2020 following all COVID-19 safety restrictions. These workshops covered local pollinator diversity and ecology and reviewed common native plants. They also included a hands-on demonstration on how to garden for pollinators. Burls hopes that these classes will show participants that all Nevada residents can plant gardens that are not only attractive, but are also healthy for beneficial insects.
“Although we’ve only done a few workshops, there’s been a lot of interest,” Burls said. “The one that we conducted in October was really fun, and we did it outside with social distancing measures in place, so it was safe as well. In the springtime, we hope to continue to host workshops like that at all the garden locations.”
The Master Gardener Native Plants Demonstration Garden at the Extension office in Washoe County was planted in September 2018 with the help of the Washoe County Master Gardener Program. The first round of plantings included species such as Agastache urticifolia (nettleleaf giant hyssop or horse mint), Baileya multiradiata (desert marigold), Geranium viscossimium (sticky purple geranium) and Ipomopsis aggregata (scarlet trumpet, scarlet gilia or skyrocket).
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