By: Genevieve Fontana, Contributor
Gardening in the winter? Take advantage of these weather conditions to prepare seeds for germination! Dr. Costanzo’s entomology class spent their lab period helping to prep the seeds for the Canisius Native Plant Project this past Jan. 18. The lab was assisted by Dr. Malini Suchak, the pioneer of the project. Entomology is concerned with the study of insects, and Dr. Costanzo has incorporated hands-on experiences within our community into her syllabus. This includes the current winter sowing project as well as the “Leave the Leaves” project to help recognize the importance of leaf litter for various insects. The project creates a habitat for insects to seek shelter and protection from harsh weather conditions, predators and other environmental stresses.
Winter sowing is a gardening method involving sowing/planting seeds outdoors during winter. This takes advantage of natural weather conditions and promotes seed germination. The cold temperatures and fluctuating weather patterns of winter scratch up the surface of the seeds, making them ready to grow and getting them used to the fluctuating temperatures, all without being shocked by the weather.
The Native Plant Project has incorporated many different groups on campus since its inception, including the USA Sustainability Committee, the Environmental Science Seminar and, now, Canisius entomology students. New Griff Orientation students are also becoming part of the project with their rock painting activity that now lines the garden, leaving their mark on our garden spaces.This project hopefully makes the incoming students feel like they are part of our campus and conveys how important earth-friendly initiatives are to our campus’s values. One of the goals of the pollinator garden spaces is to increase the use of native plants and to develop more sustainable landscaping across our Canisius community. These spaces bring community members joy when walking by the garden and provide hands-on learning experiences for the classroom.
During the Jan. 18 lab, entomology students brought plastic salad containers and used power tools to drill holes in them. Next, they filled the containers with soil and planted various pollinator-friendly plants, including cone flowers, milkweed, goldenrod and many more. Students commented on giving back to the Canisius community and participating in such a lasting project.
Student Alexa Gioia said, “I really enjoyed this project, and I think everyone should try it! Since insect numbers are plummeting drastically due to habitat loss, pesticides and climate change, to name a few, the pollinator garden helps to provide more natural spaces where the insects can go. This is incredibly important in cities. I also liked how we could all collaborate and plant seeds for insects. I believe a lot of times insects go unnoticed, but this project helped me to realize that they are integral to the environment.”
The school plans to expand the pollinator gardens by Science Hall this season. We encourage you to consider the plants you would like in your garden this season, explore winter sowing as a sustainable gardening practice and support local efforts to promote pollinator habitats. Check out the pollinator garden space on the side of the library, and remember the efforts and achievements of the community members creating pollinator-friendly habitats.