Pollinators in the Garden

I'm sitting here writing and the high today is supposed to be 63 can you say I am more than excited? With spring quickly winging its way towards us my brain is already jump starting with ideas for this year's gardening season. Each year I like to try something new or different and experiment and in the last few months pollinators and native plants have really been on my gardening radar between listening to a keynote session by Dr. Doug Tallamy on native plants and their role in ecosystems and working with colleagues on developing a webinar series called The Good, The Bad, and The Lovely that covers invasive plants and pollinators.

One of my garden goals for this year is to pay more attention to the plants in my garden and try to increase the number of plants that are pollinator friendly. Often we think of pollinators as just bees, but there are more than just bees. Pollinators also include butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, flies, birds, and a few species of bats. Did you know that more then 1/3 of our food crops in the US rely on pollinator/plant interactions?

There are a couple of recommendations for planting for pollinators.

  • Plant clumps of similar flowers and make sure that you have a variety of flowers for blooms all season
  • Try and select native plants rather than cultivars
  • Provide habitat for nesting and egg laying such as shrubs, tall grasses, and low growing plants
  • Provide protection from wind and cold, you can do this by providing spaces between clumps of plants
  • Limit pesticide use or better yet completely eliminate pesticide use in the landscape and garden
  • Avoid using weedcloth barriers and heavy layers of mulch as some pollinators will nest in the ground and you don't want to restrict their access

One of my fellow colleagues in Extension uses the term Pollinator Pocket which I absolutely love. You don't need to have a huge yard or lots of acres to be able to provide space for pollinators. Even an area that's 4 x 6 feet gives plenty of space for a number of pollinator friendly plants. There are a lot of great plants for pollinators and here are just a few perennials that you can include:

  • Asters
  • Beebalm
  • Beard Tongue
  • Bellflower
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Coneflower
  • Goldenrod
  • Joe Pye weed
  • Milkweed
  • White Indigo

If you don't have the space for a pollinator pocket in the garden consider making a pollinator friendly container. There are a number of common annuals that are pollinator friendly including alyssum, cleome, flax, lantana, snapdragon, and zinnia.

This year I'm challenging you to include a pollinator pocket in your landscape, strive to include more pollinator friendly plants in the garden, or plant a pollinator friendly container garden.