Growing a vegetable garden is the highlight of many people’s year. It means a harvest of yummy fruits and vegetables to be enjoyed during the summer and beyond. Of course, not everyone is into growing the same plants as everyone else, and those that don’t cultivate flowers may not be attracting any pollinators to their yards. Luckily, there are some easy-to-grow flowers out there that are sure to bring the pollinators in, which in turn will help your plants produce a bountiful harvest for you. Pollinators need all the help they can get, and growing a pollinator-friendly garden is a win-win solution for you and them. Check out these tips to get your own pollinator garden going strong.
One of the best places to start your search for pollinator-friendly plants is among the flowers that are native to your area. These plants are already adapted to growing in your part of the world. For that reason, they almost never require any special care on your part. They also tend to be more disease and pest-resistant than other plants.
You may want to avoid hybrids and plants with thick double flowers. Some of the more modern hybrids are very attractive when it comes to the look of their blooms, but they can lack the pollen and nectar of other flowers. Double flowers also look amazing, but their thick petals sometimes prevent pollinators from getting to the pollen inside of them.
Plant a Variety of Plants
Cultivating a variety of plants can be quite beneficial to your pollinator garden. For instance, you'll want to grow flowers that bloom at different times of year to give your local pollinators a year-round feast. You should also try to find plants that bloom at night to benefit bats and moths. Remember not to give all your attention to the adult pollinators. Plant flowers and plants that butterfly larvae enjoy eating, like milkweed for monarchs. Since these plants are going to be munched on, it might be a good idea to put them in areas where they won’t be so readily-seen by visitors.
Stop Pesticide Use
Pests can be the bane of a gardener's existences — mostly because they're attracted to the plants they worked so hard to grow. This can often make you want to pull out the big guns when your garden is under attack. The only problem is that these pesticides not only kill off the bugs you don’t want in your yard, but they also kill off beneficial insects like pollinators and pest predators. When you do have to use something to combat pests, try to find the least toxic pesticide possible, and only use it when bees and pollinators aren’t foraging in your yard (typically in the very early hours of morning around dawn, later in the evening, or at night after dusk).
Go Beyond Flowers
Naturally, flowers aren't the only things that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to your garden.
Give butterflies a feast beyond flowers. Besides nectar, butterflies are also drawn to rotting fruit, urine, and moist animal droppings. Since these aren't the most attractive things to have in your garden, it will suffice to put out a plate with some overripe fruit on it, such as oranges or bananas.
Stones make great resting places for butterflies, so consider putting down a rock or dead tree limb. Putting it in an area that’s protected from the wind is also helpful. Dead tree limbs or stumps are great for bees in your area to rest in. A bee condo can be easily made by drilling holes in them.
A salt lick is another option to consider when caring for your pollinator friends. To make one, you’ll need a damp area in bare soil, which can be either created using a drip line or dripping hose. Afterward, add some salt or wood ash to the area. Sea salt is best, but table salt also works in a pinch. Both bees and butterflies will love this addition to your garden.
If you live in an area with hummingbirds, you may want to fill a hummingbird feeder with homemade nectar and add it to your yard. Making your own nectar is easy: just mix one part sugar into four parts water. Buying a red feeder or adding red food coloring to the nectar will help attract your feathered friends even more. Be sure to clean the feeder often to prevent mold from growing. At least once every couple of weeks is a good frequency.
Learn About Your Local Pollinators
Knowing what pollinators live in your area can help you personalize your garden to meet their particular needs. Check with your local extension office or gardener’s club to learn more about the pollinators you can expect to find in your yard.
The loss of pollinator species is always a devastating blow for gardeners, so its important to do your part in helping them out. Your flying friends will love the addition of a pollinator-friendly garden in your yard. You’ll reap the benefits and give them a safe space to occupy.