Now is the time to start thinking about your garden. What big things can you do this year to create a beautiful outdoor setting?
Surprisingly, the answer is to focus on something small: Start by thinking of pollinators, those tiny creatures that flit from plant to plant, making possible the glorious blooms we all enjoy.
Pollinators, particularly bees, have been in decline in recent years, so it’s important to find ways to help them thrive. To create an environment friendly to pollinators, here are some tips:
Plant species that bloom at different times: Annuals, perennials and bushes that bloom in succession provide pollen throughout spring and fall. Plant at least three new plants: one each for spring, summer and fall “to provide at least three seasons of pollen and nectar to nourish pollinators,” notes Realtor Magazine. Consider milkweed, coneflowers and coreopsis, among many others.
Avoid pesticides. “Many pesticides — even organic ones — are toxic to bees and other beneficial organisms,” notes Gardener’s Supply Company in a recent blog. “…In the short term, they may provide a quick knock-down to the attackers, but they also kill beneficial organisms.” Think long-term and avoid the risk of ruining the natural ecosystem you’ve worked so hard to nurture in your backyard.
Provide shelter: Pollinators need places to hide from predators, as well as to avoid bad weather and raise their young. “Let a pile of grass cuttings or a log decompose in a sunny place on the ground,” notes Gardener’s Supply Company. “Or, allow a dead tree to stand to create nooks for butterflies and solitary bees.” Seventy percent of bees nest on the ground, according to experts. Leave some bare soil for them.
Provide food and water: Place feeders to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your yard. Also, consider adding a water garden, a bird bath, or a catch basin for rain.
Don’t buy plants treated with neonicotinoids (insecticides resembling nicotine): “Research has confirmed that they harm pollinators,” notes Realtor Magazine. Patronize stores that don’t stock such plants, or suggest to management that they ban these elements.
Choose perennials with easily accessible nectar, Hummingbirds and some butterflies and moths appreciate tubular flowers, such as penstemons, coral bells and hyssops. Other plants that pollinators love include: ajuga, columbine, foxglove, geranium, petunia, phlox, salvia, iris, bleeding heart, lavender, sunflower, basil, allium, marigold, yarrow, dianthus, daylily, delphinium, and Shasta daisy.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash