Pollinators have become quite the buzz (no pun intended) word as of late. But why should creating a place in your yard to encourage pollination be important to you?
Without pollinators, we would have a third less food to eat. But without our help, pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, bees, flies and beetles are quickly losing their food sources. So how can you create a pollinator garden in your own backyard?
- Choose plants that flower at different times of the year to provide nectar and pollen throughout the year, and provide a variety of flower colors and shapes to attract different pollinators. For example, butterflies are attracted to red, orange and yellow while hummingbirds prefer red, fuchsia and purple. Here are some pollinator-friendly plants to consider for your garden:
- Bee Balm
- Cardinal Flower
- Pincushion Flower (also known as scabosia)
- Plant in clumps, rather than single plants, to better attract pollinators
- Plant garden herbs, such as basil, rosemary and lavender, which provide good nectar sources for pollinators, but also provide herbs that you can use.
- Whenever possible, choose native plants. Native plants will attract more native pollinators.
- Consider planting milkweed to provide food for monarch butterflies caterpillars.
Once you have your garden planted, the focus shifts to maintenance. While native plants require less maintenance than most, your garden is still going to need some TLC.
- Water early in the morning and in the evening. When the sun isn’t high, less water evaporates and more water is taken up by the plants.
- Collect rainwater from your roof in a rain barrel by directing the down spout into the barrel. This is a great, free source of water for your garden.
- Use a soaker hose attached to your rain barrel or garden hose. Drip irrigation is a more efficient method of watering gardens than a sprinkler. If you don’t have a soaker hose, make sure your sprinkler is not watering your driveway or other hard surfaces. For any irrigation questions, contact a landscape professional to help you set up your irrigation properly.
- Watch the weather. Plants will need more water in the first growing season when they are establishing a root system. Your garden needs about 1 inch of water per week, including rainfall. Measure the rainfall using a rain gauge to ensure you are not overwatering your garden.
- Placing mulch around plants helps retain moisture and control weeds. Commonly used materials for mulch include shredded bark, wood chips and straw. Keep mulch shallow and leave small areas mulch free to maintain habitat for ground nesting bees.
Once your garden is established, you can register it through the Pollinator Partnership for the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. This is a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across America.