Tiger Swallowtail on Cup Plant. Photo by Lendon Ray.
The entire Old Sevier neighborhood is a certified Monarch Waystation. When this vacant lot became available, we thought it would make the perfect addition to the Old Sevier butterfly habitat network. Since then it has become so much more -- including a study site for urban soil regeneration by the UTK Microbiology! We are part of the Homegrown National Park TM network, and in 2022, we received the Sassafras Award by Native Plant Rescue Squad. Come visit anytime at 818 Sevier Avenue in South Knoxville.
In 2015, we started building the soil using culled organic produce from Three Rivers Market, eggshells from Magpie's Bakery, woodchips from Ironwood Tree Care, spent hops from Alliance Brewery, and more. Now the rich soil is finally able to sustain life! Our trees and perennials are finally starting to flourish! We are documenting the monarchs and other butterflies on iNaturalist (observations welcome!) The common milkweed we got as a grant from Monarch Watch is well-established and spreading enough to share with our neighbors. Every year the garden gets better and better.
For the past few years, we have partnered with the UTK Department of Microbiology to study the soil we are creating using totally natural methods over time. The students have taken soil samples over the years to monitor the growing number of microbes and other creatures present in the soil. In fact, they discovered a new nematode that had never been documented before! It is exciting to see what is happening beneath our feet as the soil becomes richer and more diverse.
We are following a beautiful plan created by Black Willow Design (sort of!) All the plants are natives, and we are using mostly "straight species" because studies show that pollinators prefer them to cultivars or nativars.