HIGH POINT — Butterflies and bees weren’t the first consideration when the teaching garden was first planted at the High Point Public Library, but both are visiting regularly now.
Those insects didn’t need to see the new “Bee Kind to Pollinators” sign installed on the Elm Street side of the garden to find milkweed and other pollinating plants.
Librarian Mark Taylor said he hopes the sign will help direct community members’ attention toward the raised beds now overflowing with pollinating plants and vegetables. Despite the summer’s overbearing heat and inconsistent rainfall, tomatoes, eggplant and blueberries are among the produce still evident in the raised beds.
“It’s been very successful this year,” Taylor said. “I have to say this has been my best year ever. Everything just clicked. I still think it’s a bit of luck. I can’t promise that every garden technique I’m doing is correct or can’t be improved upon. I just think this was a really good growing year for a lot of the vegetables.”
A nearby sign notes the teaching garden is certified by the North American Butterfly Association and provides resources that increase the world’s population of Monarch butterflies, which had been listed in 2013 as a threatened species.
Library Director Mary Sizemore said she had read an article about another library that had a butterfly garden certified by the association.
“I looked into it and said we can do that too,” Sizemore said.
Sizemore and Taylor were among the local librarians who investigated what was needed to be nationally certified. They quickly realized much of it was already growing in the teaching garden that Taylor and a former co-worker who shared his passion for gardening had started in 2014 by planting sunflowers. That original teaching garden had to be moved in 2018 because of construction in the library parking lot.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused other disruptions last year with maintaining the teaching garden’s soil. Everything in the garden this year was helped by getting a fresh top layer with extra mulch and fertilizer, Taylor said. Strawberries in the spring were a good addition to attract the butterflies and bees.
More Monarch butterflies were visiting the teaching garden this season along with substantially more honeybees, Taylor said. Next year, the library teaching garden will add a beehive that was donated by a local resident who has volunteered to keep it maintained, Taylor said.
A $1,800 Food Security Fund grant from the Greater High Point Food Alliance helped pay for a scale to track the amount of produce being donated to community food pantries and to buy educational material about plants and pollinators.
Carl Vierling, executive director of the food alliance, said Taylor’s creative and innovative approach to urban gardening shows people they can do this anywhere.
“It brings education about how you can grow your own plants,” Vierling said of the teaching garden. “There are so many wins with this. The other thing I feel is very important about this is it shows the value of the library as a place for the community to come to. It’s much more than about books, it’s about education and it’s about community. Our library does an excellent job of doing other things beyond being a traditional library and that’s just value added for our community.”
Some of the produce grown at the teaching garden has been used by other agencies, including YWCA High Point’s teaching kitchen, West End Ministries, the Triad Health Project and D-Up after school programs, Vierling said.
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