An ounce of prevention.
Installing a pollinator garden is the last step in transitioning to native plants but, unfortunately, most municipalities see it as the first. To have a good outcome, though, the first step has to be talking with all stakeholders – especially your DPW crew – about their concerns, and discovering what their needs are. There are all kinds of native plants and infinite ways of designing a native plant garden. The trick is to start with what your DPW needs first, then incorporate those needs into your design from the start. Here’s how you do it …
1) Bring your DPW into the planning right from the start.
All too often, DPW teams are brought in at the end stage of planning a pollinator garden. They have no say in the design yet they are being told to take on all the maintenance – no wonder they object! Instead, bring your DPW crew into your earliest discussions and let them be part of the process shaping your plans.
2) Listen to their concerns.
Your DPW crew knows how long it takes to maintain everything on their list. They know where sight lines need to be maintained and where there are extra problems in bad weather. So if they have concerns about native plants, listen. Find out what their needs are regarding equipment and maintenance and labor, so you can plant for those needs in your design.
3) Clear up misconceptions about native plants and pollinators.
Most people know very little about native plants. Even many who love pollinators don’t understand why native plants are necessary and what’s involved. So bring your DPW up to speed and clear up any misconceptions they may have. Give them a chance to ask questions and learn about the issue.
4) Invest in your DPW crew.
Over the long haul, native plant gardens should cost less than maintaining lawns – financially and ecologically. But at the start, you may need to invest in some training and even an extra hand. Your DPW crew needs a chance to learn the skills required in maintaining a pollinator garden. They need to know how to identify native plants from invasive species. They need to understand pollinator lifecycles. And they need to understand why pollinator gardens are not cut back in the fall.
5) Start small.
I’m a big believer in early wins – and, when it comes to pollinator gardens, the best approach is to start small. Let your DPW crew cut their teeth on a small garden that is easy to maintain. Give them a chance to apply their new skills, then use the knowledge they gain to help you design your next garden.
DPW crews are a huge asset in transitioning to native plants.
Your DPW crew knows your town inside and out, and that’s a huge asset. So if they are objecting to native plants, they probably have a good reason. Find out what it is and work with them to address it. That’s the way to make sure everybody is on board as you transition to native plants.
Photo by Erik Karits on Unsplash.