Mallory Creek Native Grasses and Wildflower Project
Mallory Creek runs alongside the Rockfish Valley Community Center, in Nelson County just off route 151. It is a tributary to the Rockfish River, and the landscape all around it consists of the beautiful foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the open agricultural lands in the valley bottoms. The Nelson County Master Gardeners, under the guidance of one of their members Herb Thomas, applied for funding from the Thomas Jefferson Soil & Water Conservation District to install a native plants meadow. Funding was approved under the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP) to convert 20,000 square feet (almost half an acre) of the mowed area to a native landscape.
From the beginning of this project, the intentions were very clear on improving the biodiversity and local environment of Mallory Creek area. The group chose to kill the turf grass in place using clear plastic, and a method known as solarization. The plastic was laid down and pinned, and surrounded with a temporary fence, by 18 Master Gardener volunteers on a Saturday. The generosity of Master Gardeners time has been imperative to the fast pace installation and success of this project.
A diverse selection of seeds were purchased and mixed for this project. Plants included bergamot, boneset, coneflowers, sunflowers, goldenrods, cardinal flower, columbine and asters to name a few. This mix has some annuals and some perennials to give a varying display of colors for the first few years while the meadow becomes fully established. The seed mix was planted in through the dead turf grass using a no-till-drill-seeder. This equipment and the labor to operate it were generously donated by J. W. Townsend, an Albemarle landscaping company.
So what does a 20,000 meadow do for our local environment? It reduces the need for maintenance at the Community Center, which has a financial benefit, but it does much more than that. It provides a place of natural beauty next to the Community Center for anyone to enjoy. It captures and infiltrates rainfall, to protect the stream from fast rising flood waters. Did you know fescue grasses have roots that extend about 3 inches into our soils, and native wildflowers and grasses often have roots down to 12 feet deep. This below ground change dramatically affects the soil health, the soil biodiversity, and the way in which water can move through a soil system.
And then there are the pollinators...the birds, we all treasure, the bees and butterflies we all admire, and the countless other flies, beetles, spiders, and invertebrates that will fill this meadow environment to overflowing. These creatures are the basis of our food web. They pollinate our crops. They feed us!
We hope the next time you are driving along route 151 past the Rockfish Valley Community Center you will take a few minutes to go see this worthwhile and beautiful native meadow project, enjoy a stroll by Mallory Creek, and pause to smell the flowers.
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Nelson County Master Gardeners are very fortunate to work within a county and Extension office that values education, values horticulture, and values the time given to young people who are eager to make their world a more sustainable home.