If you’ve ever grown a garden that produced delicious fruits or vegetables, or beautiful and fragrant flowers, then you have benefited from the work of pollinators.
Bees, butterflies, moths, and birds pick up pollen from one flower, and deposit it on another flower, not only pollinating that flower, but also adding important genetic diversity to the plants. An estimated 75% of flowering plants (including many of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts) depend on the work of pollinators!
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Unfortunately, many species of pollinators are currently experiencing a decline in population. Bees are the main pollinator for many areas of the world, and many species of bees (including honey bees) are experiencing population declines at a rapid rate. This not only affects our gardens and our food supply, it represents a threat to entire ecosystems.
As you can see, it’s more important than ever to have a yard or garden that is friendly to pollinators. Having a “pollinator-friendly” garden can provide food and shelter for these threatened species, which will benefit not only your own garden, but yards and gardens for miles around.
Here are some simple ways to make your outdoor space a safe haven for pollinators:
- Plant different varieties of plants that blossom at different times of the year, to ensure a steady food source for pollinators. Fruit trees bloom in the spring, while other plants flower in the heat of summer. I like to fill my yard with a variety of perennials to ensure that something is always blooming!
- Plant flowers of various shapes and sizes to attract a variety of species of bees. Smaller bees have shorter tongues, so they’ll favor shallower flowers, while larger bees can feed from deeper blooms.
- Plant different varieties of flowers in groups, rather than planting them far apart. This creates a sort of “flower buffet,” allowing pollinators to feed off a variety of plants in the same area. An easy way to do this is to grab a bag of wildflower seed.
- Plant native plants that are well-suited to your area’s climate, soil type, and its native pollinators. Not only will they be easier to grow, but they’ll appeal to the local pollinators. PlantNative has a great search tool to help you discover what plants are native to your region.
- Plant a selection of night-blooming flowers, like Evening Primrose and Moonflowers, which provide a food source for nocturnal pollinators like moths and bats.
- Steer clear of certain hybrids bred to produce “double flowers.” These plants have been bred for their impressive, colorful appearance, but they produce very little fragrance, nectar, or pollen.
- Don’t forget the caterpillars. In order to attract and support butterflies in your yard, you also have to support caterpillars. Many varieties of caterpillars love milkweed, sunflowers, and clover. But remember, caterpillars eat leaves, so prepare to see some holes!
- Attract hummingbirds by putting out a hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds are particularly attracted to red, so choosing a red feeder like this one can help attract them to your yard. Fill the feeder with a solution of one part table sugar to 4 parts water, boiled and cooled. Fill it with just enough solution for a few days of use at a time, and wash the feeder thoroughly with warm, soapy water at least once a week.
For a complete guide on growing a pollinator-friendly garden in your area, visit Pollinator.org. You can also contact your local University Extension Office for advice on native plants and native pollinators.