The St. Andrew’s Prairie Pocket

The St. Andrew’s Prairie Pocket: An Interview with its Creator, Student Minister Brendan O’Shaughnessy

What’s the significance of the prairie pocket at St. Andrew’s? Why is it important?

The pocket prairie is super important to the congregation at St. Andrew’s, because it is a form of eco-justice. In a sea of corn and soy, this pocket prairie serves as a critical food source for birds, pollinators, and other beneficial insects. While the pocket prairie is quite small, it acts as a carbon sink, absorbing CO2 out of the atmosphere. Planting this native garden has shown us the vibrancy and strength of our community.

How did you go about installing it, from design to planting?

Creating this native garden began with studying the planting site. With a thorough understanding, I selected a list of appropriate species and then drafted a blueprint. Each plant was purposefully placed to create a natural, yet balanced composition. I then applied for and received a grant to cover the costs of this project. To prepare for planting, a group of us removed the grass and tilled the soil. On Easter morning, we worked compost into the degraded soil in the spirit of the women bringing spices to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body. Later in the spring we installed the plants, and observed the beautiful pollinators it attracted.

Who does the maintenance, and what do you do to maintain it?

By choosing native plants, the garden is super easy to care for and very low maintenance. Each spring, a group of us cut back the old growth from the previous growing season to make space for the coming summer wildflowers. We clean the garden in spring rather than in the fall, because it provides an important winter food source for birds and a habitat for insects.   

What does this garden have to do with your faith? Why should Christians care about this kind of garden?

The opportunity to plant this prairie garden has allowed us to praise God in a unique way. When we care for creation, we are healing the body of God. Jesus calls his disciples to heal. This garden is a form of healing that Christians don’t usually consider, but is critical for the world.

Does St. Andrew’s have any other plans for more prairie plants?

This spring, we are planting another native garden at St Andrew’s. With the installation of this new garden, we will have created over 420 square feet of habitat, featuring nearly 35 different native plant species!