You may not realize this, but pollinators – like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds – play a huge role in the success of your garden. So when you’re choosing your plants & designing your layout, make sure you also plan for pollinators.
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When people envision of pollinators, I think the first thing that comes to mind is bees. And while they are a large part of the equation, butterflies and hummingbirds also help pollinate plants. Not to mention their fuzzy little legs & bodies, which can help spread seeds for germination!
According to the USDA, about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators to reproduce. On top of that, three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants need pollinators too!
Those numbers are high! And I have to say that as a homestead gardener, it seems like almost everything we grow needs a pollinators touch.
Planning for Pollinators in Your Garden
Hands down, if there’s only one thing you do from this list, make it this! Planting flowers is so important!
If only I could go back in time and tell myself that. I’ll admit, it’s hard to resist the urge to fill every single inch of the garden with fruits & vegetables. At first glance, flowers can feel like a waste of space. But if those bees don’t come in, then your tomatoes won’t get pollinated, and everybody loses.
We’re trying to make a conscious effort this year to incorporate more flowers into our landscaping. Especially considering the fact that we want to start beekeeping in the next few years. So this article is as much for me as it is for you…
Here are some of the best plants you can choose to attract various pollinators. Be sure to check the growing requirements for your specific area.
- Bee Balm
Read more about the best flowers for beginner gardeners here.
Plant Flowering Herbs & Shrubs
Some shrubs & herbs exist primarily to feed pollinators, so they’re another great addition to your garden. A good herb example is Borage – a tall herb with star-shaped flowers in a striking shade of blue. It’s an absolute bee magnet!
The flowers are edible & they taste like cucumber. You can make floral ice cubes for summer cocktails or sugar them for a dazzling dessert decoration. And while that’s a neat novelty, we honestly only grow it for the bees.
Another option is to let any old herb go to flower. It doesn’t have to be an herb specifically designed for pollinators. Bees go crazy for basil flowers. So when I’m pinching them off, I just leave a few flowers for the bees.
A good flowering shrub is the Butterfly Bush, also known as Milkweed. It’s built right into the name! Did you know that this plant is the only place that Monarchs will lay their eggs? So if you want a swarm of butterflies in your garden, give this plant a try! It also drives the bees crazy.
Everyone knows about birdbaths, but have you ever thought about a bee bath? Bees need water to regulate their temperature in the hive. But big puddles from rainfall can be a problem due to surface tension. The bees essentially get trapped to the surface of the water and drown.
Bees bath are more shallow, typically filled with large rocks and less water. This allows the bees to access the water and drink from the safety of a perch. Bonus – if you only fill half the container with rocks, the other half can double as a shallow hummingbird bath.
Interestingly, butterflies have different water needs. You can easily make a butterfly puddler that will attract them while also providing drinking water. Simply bury a pie tin in your garden, fill it with their favorite colored sand, and add a few tall rocks where they can land. Refresh water as necessary.
You don’t have to go as far as keeping a full beehive in your yard – unless that’s something you want to do. Pollinators just need a place to hunker down in storms and cold weather.
Supporting mason bees is a great first step. Though they may not be the most efficient bee in the world, they are still excellent pollinators. You can buy a pre-made mason bee house or try it as a DIY project. I know it’s on my list!
For the benefit of all backyard wildlife, don’t go overboard on the trimming and pruning. Over the years, we’ve found multiple bird nests around our homemade raised garden beds. They were nestled in the overgrown grass that we couldn’t reach with the mower. Though hummingbirds have the tiniest nests in the world – they’re the size of a quarter – they still need somewhere to call home. So let a corner of your yard grow wild & the animals will thank you!
You can read about how to raise and release monarch butterflies here.
The last thing you want to do is attract all these pollinators to your yard, only to harm them with chemicals. That includes poisons for pest – like rats – plant sprays, and fertilizers. If you’re going to build a pollinator-friendly habitat, you need to go as natural as possible.
Pay attention to labels on products and rely on “certified organic” as a last resort.
Research permaculture gardening tactics, where you work with nature, instead of against it.
Use physical, mechanical, or organic pest control methods – like using eggshells as a natural slug deterrent.
Set up your own composting system. Compost is the perfect natural fertilizer. You can start composting today for about $3 or you can build a quick compost bin out of pallets.
In closing, I hope you enjoyed this article because I truly loved writing it! And I will admit, I also learned a few things along the way. Being stewards for wildlife is so rewarding. You can taste it in the harvest, hear it in the bird’s song, and see it in the flight of the butterflies.
Please share this article to spread the pollinator love!
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Article Inspired by Bee & Basil