KINGSTON, RI – September 20, 2021 – A team of University of Rhode Island master gardeners are transforming the Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Contact Station garden into a native plant demonstration garden and assisting refuge staff to restore the habitat in the meadow of the refuge to be more beneficial for the native fauna.
Led by master gardener Mark Cordle, the project is an extension of a similar effort at the nearby Kettle Pond visitor center, where master gardeners have worked for four years to create and maintain an extensive garden of native plants.
âI couldn’t be more excited about the partnership between the sanctuary complex and the Master Gardener program,â said Nick Ernst, a wildlife biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service who works with the Master Gardeners on the projects. âThe demonstration gardens they have created are a wonderful way to showcase the beauty of native plants for use in home landscaping, as well as communicate the vital role they play in supporting an assortment of insects. beneficials and pollinators.
Working twice a week during the warmer months since last September, no less than 10 master gardeners have teamed up to renovate and redesign the Trustom Garden by removing non-native species and planting native species such as mountain mint, lemon balm, cardinal flower, goldenrod, joe-pye weed and wood aster. A two-tier rain garden serves as an infiltration system for excess runoff water, where deep-rooted plants such as ironweed, boneset and milkweed now grow.
âThe purpose of the garden is to educate,â Cordle said. âAbout 60,000 people visit the shelter each year. We are raising awareness of the benefits of native plants in attracting native insects, native birds and other wildlife so people can learn what they can do in their own gardens. It is essentially an open-air classroom.
Formal tours of the garden have been offered this month to members of the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society and other master gardeners. Additionally, garden volunteers often share their knowledge informally with visitors who want to learn more.
âAnother benefit of this project is that the master gardeners are now propagating the seeds collected from the gardens and providing us with over 30 locally adapted plant species to diversify and restore wildlife habitat in refuges,â Ernst said.
The habitat restoration component of the project began this summer, with three sites selected around the refuge’s large meadow as test plots. Frequent work days continue throughout the fall to remove invasive species such as the fall olive tree, oriental bittersweet and black swallow and replace them with native plants and shrubs. About 2,000 native plants have been planted so far, with more planned as the season progresses.
âIt’s an experience there,â Cordle admitted. âPeople have been trying to create natural meadows in their gardens for years. It’s an art and a science, and we don’t know how successful we’ll be. The goal is for the native plants to achieve a balance with the other plants already present. Hopefully they will reseed and thrive so that we don’t have to continue to nurture them. It’s about educating the public about the importance of natural ecosystems over the invasive plants we see too often.
The Master Gardeners will apply what they have learned from the first year of work to three or four other sites next year. Maintenance of the demonstration garden will also continue.
âIt’s a beautiful lab that compares the impact of invasive and aggressive plants to restored natives,â Cordle said. “Ultimately, it’s about educating the public while achieving some of the habitat restoration goals of the refuge.”
The Trustom Pond and Kettle Pond Gardens are among more than two dozen community garden projects that URI Master Gardeners tend to educate citizens on environmentally responsible gardening practices and provide food for those in it. need. To learn more about the URI Master Gardener program, visit web.uri.edu/mastergardener.