7 Tips for Growing a Pollinator Garden - Backyard Boss
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7 Tips for Growing a Pollinator Garden

From bees to butterflies, pollinators in some locations are at risk of losing their habitat due to agriculture, resource extraction, and urban development, to name a few. Fortunately, you have a fun and low-maintenance opportunity to help alleviate this problem: Planting a pollinator garden! These gardens positively impact the ecosystems and insects around you because they become safe havens that provide food and shelter for pollinators who, in turn, help the plants you eat.

If you enjoy making a difference, learn these seven tips to help grow your pollinator haven!

1. Choose Native Species

Wild Bergamot
Image credits: Cory Castellanos via Pixabay

Working with your environment, not against it, is the key to a thriving pollinator garden. The most critical component of your pollinator garden is the plants you choose. Planting species native to your region helps attract pollinators also native to the area. For instance, those who live in desert climates rely more heavily on bats for pollination than those in colder regions. 

Native species reduce or eliminate the need for pesticides or fertilizers. They do that because they naturally suit local and regional conditions (like soil and water availability) and tend to have the capacity to ward off pests native to the area. Native species may also be the only food source for some insects, providing specific nutrients at key points in their lifecycle. Native plants and insect species evolve together and create a balanced ecosystem.

2. Plant a Variety

Image credits: Nowaja via Pixabay

Some insects are generalist pollinators, meaning they can visit many different plant species. In contrast, specialist insects can only feed off of a few. Selecting pollen and nectar-rich plants in different sizes and shapes allows the garden to attract a wide range of insects.

Flower shape matters. Some pollinators, like the hummingbird, may never land on the flower, but others, like the butterfly, do. Considering the form of a flower helps those insects who may need a landing pad. Milkweed is an attractive plant for bees and butterflies, while hummingbirds enjoy foxglove and larkspur, for example. 

3. Clumping

goldenrod plant with a monarch butterfly on the yellow flowers
Image credits: Michael Barrick via Unsplash

Growing plants in large clumps is one of the best practices in a pollinator garden. Large displays of colors help pollinators find the flowers and provide more pollen and nectar, allowing for efficient pollination. Consider planting no less than three of one cultivar to create the desired effect.

4. Limit Pesticide Use

A person spraying a small plant with a pesticide from a large yellow spray bottle
Image credits: mayapujiati via Pixabay

The purpose of chemicals in pesticides is to protect plants from unwanted insects; however, they may be harmful to beneficial insects like pollinators as well.

Consider using alternatives to pesticides that are easy on the environment, like soap and water. If this is not an option, read the labels of any pesticide and consider the ingredients before use. Highly toxic ingredients, such as neonicotinoids, can contaminate the nectar, pollen, and pollinators.

Chemicals in some pesticides contaminate the food source for pollinators, and they can reduce pollinator habitats when used to eliminate unwanted plants. In turn, this creates an imbalance in the local ecosystem. Consider alternatives before selecting a pesticide for your pollinator garden!

5. Vary Blooming Times

Bee on cilantro
Image credits: photosbyangied via Shutterstock

Different varieties of plants are beneficial for their appearance, and diverse species have flowers with different blooming times as well. While some pollinators are active in early spring, others do not become active until later in the season. Varying bloom times creates a feast for a wide range of pollinators from spring until fall. Attract those pollinators with an all-you-can-eat buffet!

6. Spring Garden Cleanup

Leaf Mulch In A Garden
Image credits: Elif Bayraktar via Shutterstock

If you’d like to help the pollinators with more than just access to nectar and pollen, consider leaving your garden clean up until the spring. All the vegetation in the garden that you may normally trim back in the fall, like dead flower stalks, grasses, or even the leaves that fall to the ground, become homes for pollinators in different stages of life.

Vegetation such as leaf beds or hollow stems house eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult pollinators and protect them throughout the winter months. Honeybees, for example, live socially within hives. While they are important pollinators, honey bees aren’t native to North America. Many bees native to this region are solitary and need hollow logs or dead flower stalks to make their home. 

7. Provide a Water Source

Hummingbird in bird bath
Image credits: Jan Canty via Unsplash

Another way to attract pollinators to the garden is to provide a water source! While bird baths are great for pollinating birds such as hummingbirds, they may not be easily accessible for the smaller insects. Consider adding large rocks to the bird bath for the insects to land and retrieve water. Other water sources can include ponds, fountains, or even puddles.

Adding a water source helps make your pollinator garden a one-stop shop!

Make a Difference!

Pollinators represent an essential part of local ecosystems. Planting a pollinator garden is a great way to help keep them healthy and thriving! Using native plant species and growing in clumps are a few small things you can do to create a bustling pollination station.

Do you have a pollinator garden? If so, pat yourself on the back for a job well done! Then, share your experience in the comment section below!