Planting a Pollinator Garden with Pinole Interns

Earth Team intern Nicole Castillo reflects on their big project of the year: planting a pollinator garden specifically for Monarch Butterflies who overwinter in the East Bay

Returning as an EarthTeam (ET) intern, the Pollinator Garden has become our biggest project of the year. Pollinator Garden? It is a private area where we were given the opportunity to place California native pollinator plants to give monarch butterflies a resting space while migrating and to stimulate their reproduction to increase their population! 

A Monarch caterpillar found on one of the plants we planted for our pollinator garden!

The garden is vast and beautiful and separated into three sections — Perfect Picnic, Holy Cow!, and Athletics Field (named for their characteristics) — with a group of interns responsible for their respective areas. My peers and I work on Perfect Picnic — open, grassy, and the ideal sun-to-shade ratio- the recipe for a perfect picnic. 

Each area holds a variety of CA native plants — lovingly planted by volunteers ♡ and our garden has proven to be resilient, many surviving through extreme weather conditions and hungry deer. How do we know? ET visits the Pollinator Garden monthly for maintenance and data collection. I remember first coming back to the site after the planting event and discovering a few of our plants mangled by deer. There were hoof-prints and tree branches were trampled to the ground leading to our garden. I felt disappointed because only a few plants showed visible signs of growth but I rejected discouragement as I staked cages around the garden with my peers to prevent further damage. It was also a very difficult working day due to heavy rainfall and muddy conditions but I admire how my peers take care of our garden in any situation. 

In February I was thrilled to see so many survivors after the storm. Here, I was in charge of the caging group while another group of interns mulched and a few pairs conducted the usual routine of measuring plant height and moisture levels and taking pictures. We saw a lot of improvement and I felt very excited to see our garden be so strong and withstand so much. It is motivating and encouraging! We all worked so diligently before the sun went down and fulfillment was in the air as everyone looked so proud and happy. I can’t wait for our next visit but this is only the beginning as we continue to advocate for our pollinator friends and provide the spaces they need to thrive.

-Nicole Castillo, Senior Earth Team Pinole Intern

Interns planting the plants for the garden
Interns demonstrating for volunteering how to plant our plants
Volunteers for the big planting day being introduced to the site

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