National Pollinator Week (June 20th-26th) is fast approaching and in our neck of the woods that is a reason to celebrate! We’re often asked how to best help the local pollinators and what can be done in gardens to attract more.
So, we at Nature Hills put our heads together and came up with 5 really good ways to bring the busy bees, beautiful butterflies, and maybe even a hummingbird or two to your garden!
Beyond planting their favorite plants and reducing your pesticide applications, here are the top 5 methods of increasing Pollinator activity in your yard!
It doesn’t have to be a lot so there’s no reason to go erecting rows and rows of trees and windbreak shrubs (however we’re strong believers that everyone should). Mostly what pollinators are looking for is a little protection from the stronger gusts.
I mean, who likes holding on for dear life while grabbing a snack?
You can accomplish this by choosing a protected location, a site out of the wind, or planting some strategically placed shrubs which provide some cover, look fantastic, and provide nectar - a win-win-win if you will!
It’s a small addition but our pollinator friends get thirsty too and having a nearby source of water really helps them out! This can be a birdbath, fountain, small pond, or any combination. The important part is to make sure there’s a large flat surface to accommodate butterflies, many of which are puddlers and bees, well they have little legs! Pollinators will come for the plants and stay for the ease of water and shelter!
Set up a shallow dish with some pebbles of varying sizes, clean water daily and even some slices of fruit - like oranges, sliced grapes and apples for them to sip the sugars from. You can also include clean sponges for them to lap up much-needed water! Keep the water clean and fresh to avoid spreading diseases.
I’m sure you’ve seen this advice before but it’s so important that it’d be impossible for us not to mention it here. Sure, almost all flowers will help out pollinators but natives - true natives for your region - have the added benefit of being their favorites! They’re the best options for local ecosystems, stand up to native climate and weather, and grow the best!
The specific plants will vary by region but some really common perennial favorites include the Common Milkweed, Purple Coneflower, and Asters. There are also plenty of bushes and shrubs like Red Chokeberry, Buttonbush, and American Cranberrybush Viburnum. If you’re looking for plants native to your region, I suggest reaching out to your local Agriculture Extension Office. They’ll have the very best options for your specific environments.
Not only are these plants more recognized by these pollinators, but many of their larvae feed on the leaves of native plants too! So include your favorite local species Host Plants to encourage more of them to fly around as adults later on!
Pollinators start coming out to collect nectar as soon as it’s warm enough outside to do so. The minimum temperature for Honeybee flight is 54º F and butterflies can’t even fly unless their body temperature is above 60º F. So it’s important to have some food options for them early in the spring all the way into late fall when they bundle back up for the winter or get ready to migrate (as Monarch butterflies do).
Fall planted bulbs like Daffodils, Hyacinths, Crocus, and Tulips are great early spring blooming options and don’t require much maintenance. Forsythias are known for their early spring flowers as well. Redbuds and Candytuft, Pasque Flowers, Dianthus (Garden Pinks) and Spring Beauty not only give you a breath of fresh air after a long harsh winter but your local bees and butterflies as well!
As for late-season bloomers, try adding Coreopsis, Rudbeckia, Asters, Joe Pye weed, and Russian Sage. Roses also work great as many will bloom from spring all the way until the first hard frost. If you’re wondering what to plant in your area, take your lead from nature and watch which plants seem to do well early in the spring and late into fall.
Pollinators and beneficial insects need a place to take shelter during the winter months in order to complete their lifecycle. Some even need a helping hand finding locations to lay their eggs. Leafcutter bees and Mason bees seek out narrow tubes or hollow stems, while others burrow into the loose sandy soil or find a crack in your retaining wall.
Sure, you can go out and buy fancy pollinator houses or bee hotels (I mean there are some very cute butterfly and bee houses out there) but there are also plenty of cost-efficient ways to give the pollinators shelter too! For example, leave your grasses and perennials as is in the fall instead of rushing out to cut them down. Don’t remove all your fallen leaf litter and keep a few beds full of this free insulation for the winter. Add a layer of mulch around your plants, this helps the plants and gives beneficial insects somewhere to hang out during the winter months.
Then, in the spring, keep the grass, leaves, stems, and other debris in place a little longer than normal to give the pollinators a chance to wake up. Don’t be so hasty to run out and kill the early blooming Dandelions and flowering weeds in the turfgrass either. Many are also starting to participate in no-mow May, which allows the grass flowers and weeds to help feed the pollinators during the earliest days of spring.
Helping out the pollinators you already have and attracting more to your garden are two sides to the same coin. Accomplish one, and the other surely follow! Hopefully, these tips will help you out and don’t forget to thank your pollinators!
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Thanks for caring about the pollinators – the world wouldn’t be the same without them!
Until next time - Happy Planting!