Many of our garden plants rely on pollinators to grow and reproduce. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, bats and other animals help our plants grow and multiply. Unfortunately, pollinator populations have been in decline and this is threatening our world’s food supply. On a smaller scale, we need these animals in our own gardens. What can we do to encourage pollinators in our gardens and lawns?
Related : Save the Bees – 10 Ways You Can Help
First let’s define pollination. Simply put, pollination is the movement of pollen from the stamen to the stigma which further results to fertilization.
Some flowers self-pollinate (pollination occurs in the same plant) and others cross-pollinate (pollen is transferred from the stamen of one plant to the stigma of another of the same species). For example, tomatoes are self-pollinators; Squash and cucumbers cross-pollinate. This process doesn’t always occur and different plants have different requirements – for some, the wind is enough to do the trick, for others, it requires the help of pollinators to make it happen. In fact, about 90% of plant species require the help of pollinators. I worry sometimes that the pollination won’t occur on my plants and I’ll have missed the window for pollination. I’ve even resorted to pollinating the flowers of my squash myself to ensure it happened. And…unfortunately I’ve even seen what happens when poor pollination occurs in my garden because I haven’t provided an encouraging environment for pollinators.
Now that we’ve gotten the plant sex talk out of the way, let’s talk about how to attract these little helpers to our garden and help the pollinator populations in general.
Why native? Native plants have evolved to grow over time in an area and have close beneficial relationships to other plants and animals in that same area, including pollinators. These provide the leaves, nectar and pollen the native regional species need. Certain colors attract pollinators. Butterflies like red, yellow, orange, pink and purple on flowers that have flat tops and short tubes. Bees prefer blue, purple and yellow and there is some evidence that bees may be most attracted to flowers that contrast with their background, are known to be attractive to bees. With all of those preferences, you’re sure to help pollinators AND have a beautifully colorful, diverse garden.
Plant in clusters so they’re most visible and introduce diverse plants that bloom at different times throughout the season. You can even plant edible flowers or flowers beneficial to your vegetable plants if you’re most focused (like I am) on growing food. I loved adding sunflowers to my garden last year. I saw an immediate benefit as the bees flocked to my garden. Other great options include nasturtium, marigolds, zinnias and herbs like lavender, dill, basil and oregano.
If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, use the guides from the Pollinator Partnership to select good plants for pollinators in your area.
Insecticides can kill pollinators and impact foraging and nesting areas that can not only prevent the pollination of your plants but can impact the rate of reproduction of bees and other pollinators. Herbicides can even kill species of plants that may not be what you want in your garden or landscape but are some that pollinators depend on. You may also be unknowingly killing other beneficial insects with pesticides. If you have to spray, do so at night when pollinators are not actively foraging in the garden.
As we know, caterpillars become butterflies. When we think about attracting butterflies, we should be considering all stages of development. Butterflies need places to lay their eggs, for caterpillars to munch on and nectar for the adult butterfly. Milkweed and even carrot fronds are favorites of the caterpillars in my garden. Butterflies lay their eggs on plants they know their off spring will eat. Use these caterpillar and butterfly-friendly ideas for your garden.
Like most animals in the wild, pollinators look for shelter from predators and even strong winds. What might look like a messy clump of grass could be a great protective nesting place for bees. Hey, it’s a great excuse to not have to strive for that “perfect” yard. Even leaving twigs and dead wood can provide shelter for bees. Take a piece of wood and drill 1/4 inch holes about 3-5 inches deep for the bees. Mount the block or put it against an outside wall under the eaves of a shed or garage. Don’t discount bats! Bats are beneficial for many reasons. Not only are they pollinators, but they also kill mosquitoes. If you’re feeling ambitious, set up a bat box to attract them. And if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can even build one yourself using instructions easily found online.
Pollinators need water for a number of reasons, including drinking or even reproduction. Butterflies have a habit of gathering together to drink at water sources. Create water sources for pollinators such as small containers or birdbaths. With the rise of mosquito-borne illnesses, if you’re keeping small areas of standing water, you may want to consider using mosquito dunks or change the water every other day to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the water.
Well, that’s it. We hope that you have enjoyed this blog post. If you need help, we are here behind you.
I'm Catherine, The Wine Box Gardener. I'm all about growing LOTS of organic vegetables and herb in the smallest of spaces -- and do most of it by recycling wooden wine boxes as planters. Come see what's growing in my urban garden, and get tips and recipes on my website http://www.wineboxgardener.com/.Follow @wineboxgardener on social to keep up with all the latest using the links above or: Instagram https://www.instagram.com/wineboxgardener/ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/wineboxgardener Twitter https://twitter.com/wineboxgardener
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