A pollinator garden challenge has been thrown out to Talent residents with a goal of creating more certified, pesticide-free plots by late June.

A certified garden under development by groups in front of City Hall was the genesis of the challenge.

“The challenge is to become a certified pollinator garden by June 23,” said City Councilor Stephanie Dolan. That’s the date that National Pollinator Week begins.

The Talent Garden Club, Talent Bee City USA, the city’s Together for Talent Committee and city government officials are behind the effort. Talent became the second Bee City USA in the nation in 2014. There are nine certified gardens in town already.

More than 35 people have joined the Talent Pollinator Garden Challenge Facebook group. Dolan says she is also hearing from people who want to develop the gardens, and that a more formal signup process may occur.

Gerlinde Smith of the Talent Garden Club is leading the effort to repurpose the garden area in front of City Hall. She’s already planted Lavender Provence in the space after city workers removed a number of plantings but left those that are beneficial to pollinators. About 35 to 40 new plant species will be added in the space.

Talent’s Urban Renewal Agency will cover costs, said Dolan. The agency built City Hall in the last decade and turned it over to the city. TURA budgeted $10,000 for installation of a pollinator garden at the roundabout it constructed in 2015, but only $2,600 of that amount was spent by Bradley Wilson on the project. Remaining funds will be used for the City Hall garden, but Dolan and Smith anticipate that cost will be even less than for the roundabout garden because of donations of plants and volunteer labor. Public Works will need to convert the spray irrigation system to a drip method.

The challenge idea came to Dolan when she was in a Together for Talent meeting where the City Hall garden was discussed. She was wondering how the community could become involved.

“I thought, ‘What is the opportunity for the community to learn? We could do a challenge,’ ” said Dolan. Videos of work on the city garden and tips on creation of the spaces will be posted on the Facebook site. Dolan hopes school classes will visit to site.

Garden club and Bee City representatives will review submissions for certification, which is based on recommendations by the national Bee City USA organization. Club members will offer advice for those seeking certification.

Criteria for certified pollinator gardens are available on a worksheet at the Facebook site, including no pesticide or herbicide use within the garden perimeter, blooming plants from early spring to late fall, and a water source with pebbles that pollinators can land on while they drink.

The garden must also meet one of several other criteria, including support of a diverse range of native pollinators, at least three native plants, additional pollinator habitat, sourcing of neonicotinoid-free seeds and plants, visibility from the street or inclusion on a tour map.

Plants and seeds free from neonicotinoids are important because those substances persist and can disorient pollinators, Smith said.

Certification can be achieved with a couple months of work, said Smith. But she added that garden club members wouldn’t abandon those who haven’t completed certification when the challenge ends.

Pollinator-friendly features will be incorporated into the city garden. A bug house that will be inviting to beneficial insects will be constructed.

“It’s our ‘Bugingham Palace,'” said Smith.

There will be nesting structures for a variety of bees that have specific needs, such as the mason bee, which closes its incubation nest with dirt, or the leaf cutter bee, which trims leaves for its sanctuaries.

“We really need to nurture our native bees. Seventy percent are ground-dwelling. Thirty percent need a hollow,” said Smith.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.