Saint Matthew Lutheran Church pollinates Moorestown

The church is installing a pollinator garden just in time for Earth Day.

This Earth Day, Saint Matthew Lutheran Church is offering a sanctuary for wildlife to thrive in the form of a children’s pollinator garden on its grounds. The goal is twofold: to provide a new home for pollinators and to inspire the community to follow suit and create pollinator sanctuaries of their own.

On Sunday, April 22, the church will unveil the garden in a dedication ceremony. Representatives from local environmental and service-oriented groups are invited to attend, and the garden will be registered with the “Million Pollinator Challenge,” a national movement to inspire and track pollinator gardens around the country.

Brian Lestini, the Green Team leader at Saint Matthew, said the church started a Green Team about a year ago to connect the congregation and the broader community with the natural world. He said the idea to install a garden on the church’s grounds stemmed from the idea of connecting the community with the environment.

“This project is meant as a gift to our youth and the broader community, in order to raise awareness on the importance of pollinating species and how their populations are declining,” Lestini said. “It also provides important habitat to help our friends the pollinators.”

Lestini said one out of every three bites of food people consume depends on pollinators such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beatles, moths and other pollinator species. However, pollinator populations are in a state of decline due to factors such as over-development leading to loss of habitat, pesticides and herbicides, climate change, diseases and introduction of non-native species.

Pollinator gardens are designed to provide the specific types of plants pollinators need for their nectar and larval food sources, Lestini said.

“In a way, pollinator gardens are way stations that we can provide to pollinators along their journey, to help them survive and thrive,” Lestini said.

Saint Matthew’s garden will feature milkweed, which is essential for feeding monarch butterfly caterpillars. It will also have a number of other plants designed to attract a variety of pollinators throughout the year, including bee balm, coneflower, lavender, coreopsis and many others, Lestini said.

The last year has been spent planning the garden. Lestini said they have engaged both of the church’s youth groups, and they have received support from the congregation as well as the Moorestown community at large. Boy Scout Troop 42 is helping to prepare and install the garden, and Leonberg Nursery in Moorestown donated all of the soil, gravel and mulch.

Volunteers from the congregation, including gardeners and beekeepers, have spent many hours doing everything from planning the garden layout to purchasing and installing the plants. They have also led Sunday school activities educating the youth groups on the purpose of the garden.

The Green Team will be looking to expand the garden in the future and plans to convert the garden to a rain garden, so they can draw water naturally to maintain it.

Lestini said the garden is not only a gift to Saint Matthew but to the Moorestown community. He said they’re hoping to lead by example and inspire other local groups and residents to install pollinator gardens themselves.

“It doesn’t take a lot of land or plants to create a pollinator garden,” Lestini said. “Anyone can do it, in their yard, businesses — even in window boxes.”