Common Grounds is Abuzz with a New Pollinator Garden!

Sgt. Jeannette Shimonovich, Lakewood Twp Police, Tova Herskovitz, Founder and Director of Common Grounds Community Garden, Ben Hayden, Inspector, OCSCD, Ramon Mejia, Senior Erosion Control Specialist, OCSCD, Jessica Pinto, Senior Erosion Control Specialist, OCSCD.

Common Grounds Community Garden, located at the John F. Patrick Sports Complex, Lakewood, is abuzz with the addition of a new pollinator garden. The procurement, preparation and installation of the new pollinator garden was a collaborative effort between Common Grounds Community Garden, Ocean County Soil Conservation District (OCSCD), Lakewood Township Department of Public Works, Lakewood Township Police Department, School for Children With Hidden Intelligence (SCHI), Mayaan Girls High School of Jackson, as well as many community members who helped plant the pollinator garden on Thursday, May 30, 2024.

Jessica Pinto and Ramon Mejia, OCSCD, pick-up the Habitat Kit consisting of 500 plugs and 2 shrubs, from Pinelands Nursery.

Through an application process completed by Senior Erosion Control Specialist, Jessica Pinto, OCSCD was awarded a Habitat Kit from the Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, consisting of 7 species of native wildflowers, 3 species of native grasses, and 2 species of native shrubs, totaling over 500 plugs which were planted in two large garden beds around the perimeter of the existing vegetable gardens. Habitat Kits are comprised of plant species conducive to specified site conditions, including soil texture type, soil pH, soil moisture, and light. OCSCD received a “Mid-Atlantic Monarch and Pollinator Kit” for implementation at Common Grounds Community Garden. The plants, funded by Xerces Society and provided by Pinelands Nursery & Supply, include: Butterfly Milkweed, Yellow Wild Indigo, Purple Coneflower, Oxeye Sunflower, Spotted Bergamot, Clustered Mountainmint, Seaside Goldenrod , Little Bluestem, Purple Lovegrass, Bitter Panicgrass, Highbush Blueberry, Black Chokeberry.

The plants create and augment habitat for pollinators and other wildlife, and provide ecological value to the landscape. Flowers provide nectar relied upon by adult Monarchs and other pollinators, including butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Pollen provides another important food source for bee and wasp larvae, beetles and other beneficial insects. Vegetative plant parts such as leaves and stems of milkweed host Monarch caterpillars. Leaves and stems of native grasses are host for caterpillars that will metamorphose into a variety of species of butterflies and moths. Caterpillars are an important protein-rich food source for baby birds during this time of year. Shrubs provide berries for birds, as well as protection and shelter from weather and predators.

Following the installation of the pollinator garden, OCSCD and Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority (BTMUA) provided an educational program for the public on Sunday, June 2, to teach about healthy soil and water conservation as important gardening and landscaping practices. OCSCD’s Education Outreach Coordinator, Becky Laboy, introduced participants to the sandy soil in the pollinator garden through a soil sieve activity. Sandy soil is often dry because water infiltrates sandy soil easily and percolates quickly. Sandy soil lacks the ability to hold onto nutrients which can leach downward or wash away during watering and rain events. Excess nutrient fertilizers can make their way into nearby water bodies and create noxious algal blooms. With the addition of compost to the garden, the soil holds more moisture, and the organic matter also holds onto the nutrients. A thick layer of mulch on top of the soil also helps to lock in moisture, while preventing weeds.

Becky Laboy, Education Outreach Coordinator, OCSCD, teaches about the importance of healthy soil.
Education program participant Dina Hefter makes an “olla”.

Shari Kondrup, Watershed Education and Outreach, Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority (BTMUA), introduced participants to “ollas”. Ollas (pronounced “o-yahs”) are an ancient water conservation technology used around the world, with practical purposes for today’s gardener. Essentially, ollas are terracotta or unglazed clay pots filled with water and buried in the soil. The porous clay allows water to slowly seep through, targeting the roots of plants. Each participant made their own olla to take home and use as a water conservation tool in their own garden.

OCSCD and BTMUA work together with the Barnegat Bay Partnership (BBP) and other conservation organizations to educate the public about the importance of best landscape management practices. One of our flagship initiatives is Jersey-Friendly Yards, a website designed to be a “one stop information portal” that guides gardeners through the process of planting native gardens to support pollinators and wildlife, reduce fertilizer pollution, eliminate the use of chemical pesticides, conserve water, and ensure a healthy foundation of soil for your garden. Residents, schools and municipalities can now become Jersey-Friendly Certified.

Participants in Common Grounds Community Garden’s weekend education program showcase their “ollas”. Left to right: Elaine Biddulph, Rosa Greher, Ayelet Mehlman, Chaya Miriam Waintman, Dina Hefter, Shari Kondrup, Ayala Scholssberg, Tova Herskovitz, Neima Fogel.

Common Grounds Community Garden was founded by Orthodox Jewish Community activists, Tova Herskovitz and Ayala Schlossberg, “who recruit people from all cultures and ethnicities to engage in bridge-building.” Director, Tova Herskovitz, manages Common Grounds Community Garden which is intended to “foster communication by creating spaces and opportunities for individuals of different backgrounds to come together.” Common Grounds Community Garden is open everyday during daylight hours. Visitors are welcome to harvest whatever produce is ready for picking by following the signs posted. The addition of the new pollinator garden will boost the pollinator population, which will inevitably boost the fruit and vegetable yield. Ayala Schlossberg, Garden Manager, stresses the importance of Common Grounds Community Garden as a place to provide educational programs to the public.

For more information about Common Grounds Community Garden and associated volunteer opportunities and educational programs, please contact Common Grounds Community Garden Director, Tova Herskovitz, at or 732-226-7598.

Additional resources to support healthy landscaping can be found on OCSCD’s website and the Jersey-Friendly Yards website. OCSCD, BTMUA and BBP provide leadership, technical expertise and education and outreach programs for the development of native landscapes in an effort to create and maintain healthy soil, conserve water, support pollinators, birds and wildlife, avert stormwater runoff and reduce non-point source pollution. For outreach programs for your local organization, call OCSCD’s Education & Outreach Coordinator, Becky Laboy,, or BTMUA’s Educator, Shari Kondrup,

Ocean County Soil Conservation District Staff: Ben Hayden, Jessica Pinto, Ramon Mejia, Sean Yeats, District Director Christine Raabe, and Becky Laboy