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Transylvania to revive gardens that benefit pollinators, prevent soil erosion

If you’re bugged by recent news of insect population declines, you’ll likely be interested in Transylvania University’s plan to revive its sustainable gardens.

These flowering plots in an urban setting will raise awareness—maybe even create a buzz—about the importance of insects, and they will provide healthy habitats for pollinators of local vegetable gardens.

The flowering plants growing on the plot at the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway specifically will cater to pollinators that may go to work in a nearby organic community garden behind Poole Residence Hall. And the revitalized rain garden behind the Carpenter Academic Center will provide added protection against soil erosion—serving as an alternative to, say, a concrete drainage ditch along this low-lying strip of ground.

Crews have already cleared out much of the existing vegetation, including weeds.

“Basically we just decided to start from scratch,” said Margaux Crider, Transy’s AmeriCorps VISTA for sustainability. “It’s just time to replenish the gardens.”

Students (pictured above) planted the original butterfly garden on Fourth and Broadway in 2010 as part of the Community Learning and Sustainability Students program with the help of a grant from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

Also that year, the university received a local Stormwater Quality Grant that it used in part for interactive, hand-painted signage in the rain garden, which featured native perennials such as yellow and blue flag irises and oakleaf hydrangeas. It was one of the first rain gardens installed in Lexington.

The Transy community will start replanting the plots this spring with native flowers and herbs and create additional signage to match the new vegetation. Students and grounds crews will tend the gardens, which they plan to keep free of pesticides.

These plots will provide opportunities for students to conduct science experiments and perhaps even studies on how green spaces affect human communities.

Sustainable gardens in the middle of a city like Lexington provide a break from concrete, asphalt and manicured lawns—while benefiting a variety of organisms. “They are centers of urban biodiversity,” Crider said.