Each year, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Education staff designs and plants a Teaching Garden on-site focused on programming about food with titles like "Veggies by the Yard", and "Grow A Healthy Handful". Interpretive signage is always important to provide walk-by learning to visitors. These programs and the signage as well as plant lists, construction details, and tips for teaching are made available as teaching materials to Extension Master Gardeners the following year.
With all the interest in protecting pollinators, coupled with the need for people to eat healthier, the "Smart Snacks" garden idea was born. It was trialed in the Teaching Garden (now called the Extension Master Gardener Teaching Garden), and this year was made available to Master Gardener volunteers. Five signs highlighting specific messages were made available as well - how tomatoes are pollinated, growing plants for pollinators, healthy tomato stats. Plant lists included cherry tomatoes, verbena, basil, mint, zinnia - and photos of examples as well as resources for materials. Smart Snacks gardens can be planted anywhere including in a "pop-up garden" format planted in a collapsible "bag" pot placed on asphalt or cement. The goal? To get people planting to support their own snacking and that of pollinators!
I chose to plant my own Smart Snacks garden along our driveway in two raised beds / retaining walls each about 48" x 72". I had started planting pollinator-friendly plants last year: swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), native bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), gayfeather (Liatris spicata), coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia), purple dome asters, and others. Early spring flowers include pigsqueak (Bergenia cordifolia), lily of the valley (Corvallis), beard tongue (Penstemon) and big root geranium (Geranium maculatum). This spring, I added elderberry, anise hyssop (Agastache), more bee balm, cherry tomatoes, and saw the milkweed had spread.
The Smart Snacks garden is successful. A variety of bees - native, bumble, honey - as well as soldier beetles, monarchs, dragon flies, and moths come to roost and "snack" on nectar-rich plants and pollen. I, too, snack a bit on mints and cherry tomatoes, as I pass by. The best surprise were six monarch larvae on the swamp milkweed! I look forward to expanding my Smart Snacks garden annually into nearby beds.
For information on Smart Snacks gardens and planting for pollinators: