WILD CHILD VERTICAL GARDEN PROJECT: Part I
VERTICAL GREENHOUSE GARDEN & VERTICAL FOOD GARDEN AROUND THE COOP PROJECT OBJECTIVES: The Wild Child Vertical Greenhouse Garden & Vertical Food Garden Around the Coop Projects are ongoing educational initiatives that will provide vegetables, herbs, plants, and fresh eggs for the local community.
The initiative will include teaching others the importance of growing their own food, vertical gardening principles, sustainability practices, homesteading, raising chickens, hands on gardening experiences, wildlife conservation, pollinator gardening, and assistance with starting pollinator friendly habitats and food gardens. The project with be maintained with the help of family, friends, local scout troops, schools, and volunteers as needed.
WILD CHILD BOTANICALS PROJECT SITE: The Wild Child Botanicals property has been in place since 2006, and was upgraded in 2017. During this upgrade, forage grass was replanted, and a dead tree stump was left intact to provide shelter. The property was certified in 2018 by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat, and certified in 2021 as a Tennessee Smart Yard.
The Wild Child Pollinator Habitat was completed in 2019. This habitat is important because pollinators are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also bring us fruits, vegetables, nuts, ½ of the world’s oils, fibers and raw materials, support healthy ecosystems that clean the air, stabilize soils, protect from severe weather, and support other wildlife. Pollinator populations are declining and this decline is attributed most severely to a loss in feeding and nesting habitats. In the local urban area, there aren’t enough pollinator friendly habitats. The habitat is near several urban agricultural fields, and it helps increase local agricultural yields. The habitat attracts native pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, dragonflies, hummingbirds, and moths by offering adequate sources of food, water, and shelter. Wild Child Herb Shop maintains natural and cultivated habitats where pollinators can nest, rest, and forage, creating healthy pollinator populations. The habitat boosts native pollinator populations by protecting existing standing natural areas and green spaces. A large pond and areas of the property are left “wild” to provide alternate foraging and nesting sites, and the existing manicured and unmanaged green spaces are free of harmful pesticides. The Wild Child Pollinator Habitat was established using native perennials, and avoiding non-native or invasive species. The habitat contains plants that attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Plantings include native trees, native plants with different flower colors, shapes, sizes, and blooming periods, nectar-rich flowers, herbs, and flowering vines. The habitat also provides basking, puddling, water, and nectar stations, hummingbird feeders, bee houses, bat houses, and butterfly houses. The nesting sites promote the colonization of the garden areas on the property by pollinating insects. The pollinator houses create nooks for butterflies and solitary bees. Invasive weed control and insect pest control is accomplished by using natural methods rather than synthetic chemicals. Ecological plant protection, such as feeding plants with organic manure and quality compost, has also been implemented.
Preparation of the habitat area was achieved by:
•Obtaining a UT Extension Service soil test.
•Achieving a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.0 to ensure that microbial activity is optimal to ensure that plant roots absorb and access nutrients.
•Adding organic matter to the soil to improve structure, slowly release nutrients, and increase beneficial microbial activity.
•Adding organic aged manure and blood meal to the soil to increase nitrogen content for strong leaf and stem growth, and dark green color.
•Adding slow-release rock phosphate to the soil to increase phosphorus content for root strength and early plant growth.
•Adding kelp to the soil to increase potassium content, and ensure plant root vigor, and disease and stress resistance.
•Adding organic fertilizers when needed to prevent burning plants, improve soil structure, and encourage earthworms and microorganisms.
•Adding soil amendments: compost, leaf mold, peat moss, and top soil.
FLORA & FAUNA DOCUMENTED ON EXISTING NATURAL/WILD AREAS:
Common Boxwood: (Buxus sempervirens): a rounded to broad-rounded shrub or small tree that matures in a shrubby form, and grows to 15 feet tall. The small and elliptic to oval to oblong leaves are up to 1 1/2" long, simple, opposite, smooth-margined, evergreen, and dark glossy green above and yellowish-green below. Inconspicuous, apetalous blooms in axillary clusters are pale green to yellow to creamy white. The fruit is a dehiscent capsule up to 1/3" long that matures to brown.
The common boxwood is attractive to bees, and provides shelter for small birds, mammals, and insects.
Burning Bush: (Euonymus alatus): a dense, mounded, spreading, flat-topped, and multi-stemmed shrub that is noted for its fiery red fall foliage. This shrub will mature over time to 20 feet tall. The leaves are elliptic to obovate, crenulate to serrulate, and green. Small, yellowish-green blooms appear in May, and the small fruits ripen in fall. Fruit capsules split open when ripe to reveal the tiny seeds that are encased in a fleshy orange-red aril.
The seeds are attractive to birds who eat and distribute them.
Common Coleus: (Plectranthus scutellarioides): a tropical evergreen tender perennial that has been a popular foliage plant since Victorian times. It has been hybridized over the years into a very large number of strains with an almost infinite number of leaf color combinations, including most colors of the spectrum except true blue. Cultivars range in size from dwarf 6” tall plants to large mounded 36” tall plants. Four-sided stems are semi-succulent, and showy multi-colored leaves are generally ovate to oblong and toothed. The leaves frequently feature mixtures of colors in irregular patterns.
The common coleus attracts beneficial insects.
Dogfennel: (Eupatorium capillifolium): a weedy herbaceous perennial that grows on erect and slender stems up to 6 feet tall. The stems are often reddish, and covered with feathery and fine pinnate leaves that have an unpleasant odor. The blooms are very small and greenish-white, and are arranged in pyramid-shaped end clusters.
Dog fennel provides moderate cover for small mammals and terrestrial birds.
Wild Elderflower (Sambucus nigra): a deciduous, sprawling, multi-stemmed shrub or tree that grows to 20 feet tall, and is noted for its aromatic late spring flowers and its edible fruits. Compound pinnate leaves up to 10” long are dark green, and contain 3-7 serrate and ovate to elliptic leaflets. Tiny white blooms in large flattened umbel-like cymes up to 10” across bloom in June-July, and have a musky fragrance. Flowers give way to clusters of glossy black elderberry fruits in late summer.
Wild Elderflower attracts birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.
Late Goldenrod: (Solidago altissima): an herbaceous perennial wildflower with alternate tapering leaves, branching clusters of small and yellow flower heads, and hairy flower stalks that are thick and firm.
Late Goldenrod supports the Wavy-lined Emerald Moth, bees, butterflies, and soldier beetles.
Kurogane Holly: (Ilex rotunda): an evergreen tree that grows to 65 feet, has blue-green leaves that are present year-round.
The pale yellow to white blooms are attractive to bees, butterflies, and birds.
Trumpet Honeysuckle: (Lonicera sempervirens): a high-climbing, twining vine that grows up to 20 feet with smooth, glossy, paired, semi-evergreen leaves and 2-4 flowered clusters of red, tubular blooms followed by bright-red berries. The leaves are ovate to oblong with smooth and rolled down margins, and a blunt or short pointed tip. This vine has showy and trumpet-shaped flowers that are red outside, yellow inside, and occur in several whorled clusters at the ends of the stems. The papery and exfoliating bark is orange-brown in color, and the fruit is a red berry.
This beautiful, slender, and climbing vine is frequently visited by hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. It is the larval host for the Spring Azure Butterfly and the Clearwing Moth. The fruit attracts quail, purple finch, goldfinch, hermit thrush, and the American robin.
Creeping Juniper: (Juniperus horizontalis): a hardy evergreen plant with silvery-blue foliage that can take on a purplish tone in the winter months. With a moderate growth rate, it reaches less than a foot tall but can spread several feet wide, forming a dense mat.
Creeping Juniper provides shelter for a variety of birds.
Meadowsweet: (Spiraea japonica): a dense, upright, mounded, deciduous shrub that grows to 6 feet tall with a slightly larger spread. The leaves are oval and sharply-toothed. Tiny pink blooms in flat-topped clusters cover the foliage from late spring to mid-summer, with sparse and intermittent repeat bloom sometimes occurring.
The flowers are attractive to butterflies of all kinds.
Whorled Milkweed: (Asclepias verticillata): a perennial herb that is native to Tennessee, and has a tap root, simple and linear leaves, and white or green blooms.
Whorled Milkweed supports all stages of the Monarch butterfly's life cycle. It is also attractive to bumble bees and honey bees.
Mexican Mint: (Plectranthus amboinicus): a perennial succulent that grows to 18” tall with aromatic foliage that contains pungent oils which can be used to flavor pizzas and other Mediterranean dishes. This plant has thick and fuzzy leaves that are grayish green and finely haired with saw-toothed edges.
The blooms are borne in panicles and may be white, pink, or lavender, and are attractive to a variety of pollinators.
Pokeweed: (Phytolacca decandra): a perennial herb with simple and alternate leaves, and pink to red and white blooms.
Pokeweed attracts migrating songbirds, and the berries can be used as a dye.