Theme gardens are becoming more and more popular. I shared information on building a cutting garden a few weeks ago. Today, I’m suggesting that you build a pollinator garden in another bed.
We’re being told today that there’s a pollinator crisis. Bees, one of the best pollinators, are dying off and scientists have yet to identify the cause. The monarch butterfly population also is suffering. Scientists believe this is caused by a reduction in the number of milkweed plants, Monarch butterfly caterpillars’ only food source.
Many of our plants – both food producing plants and landscape plants – need pollinators to reproduce. Bees, butterflies, other insects and hummingbirds all pollinate in the same way. They are attracted to plants by the nectar the plants produce. As they drink the nectar, the pollinators pick up pollen from the flower’s anther (male part). Pollen can cover a pollinator’s body, its feet, wings and antennae. The pollinator then flies to another plant to drink more nectar and deposits the pollen on to that flower’s stigma (female part).
Some plants depend on the wind or water to move pollen but most depend on insects and birds.
Here’s how you can help restore the pollinator population in your environment:
- Select an existing bed or plant a new bed dedicated to plants that attract pollinators. Select native, flowering plants. Garden store professionals should be able to help you choose the best plants for this purpose. Plant them just as you would any other flowering plants. However, plant in clumps rather than single plants. This will attract pollinators more efficiently.
- The plants you choose should flower at different times so the pollinators will have a pollen and nectar source throughout the growing season. Be sure that there’s milkweed and other plants like herbs nearby for the larvae to feed on. Plant some if there isn’t any. Some caterpillars also like rotten fruit, which you can scatter around. These food sources don’t have to be in the pollinator garden. They can be at the fringe of your yard if you prefer.
- Pollinators need water. A landscape water feature like a fountain, birdbath or pond is a good source of water for pollinators if no natural stream or pond is nearby. They don’t drink a lot. Pollinators will even drink out of puddles. Some other water source suggestions include sinking a container of sand into the soil, keeping it damp and adding a pinch of sea salt. You can even put out a wet sponge in a pinch.
- Provide shelter. Pollinators’ shelter needs are simple. They just need a place to be safe from predators and foul weather. Habitat may be as simple as shrubs, grasses, low-growing plants and fallen branches or as elaborate as bee boxes. Also, leave small patches of bare ground for ground-nesting bees.
- Limit your pesticide use. Practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management). Use natural or biological pest control methods whenever possible. If pesticide is the only effective control, apply it in the evening when most pollinators aren’t active.
A pollinator garden is an inexpensive way to assure the sustainability of your personal environment. It will also contribute to improving your community and even the world’s sustainability. If, however, you don’t want to make the plant decisions, prepare the bed or do the planting, just give us a call. We have a landscaping crew eager to do it for you. Also, call us if you have a pest problem that requires IPM expertise.