Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Plant a Pollinator Patch

If you want pollinators visiting your pumpkins and strawberries, melons and cukes, then you'll want to make sure your garden is pollinator-friendly. The easiest way to do that is to plant a pollinator patch. You don't need much room - I plant a 3-foot by 3-foot section for the local bees and butterflies. And I've planted some flowers around the edge of the garden as well. But if space is limited, a 15-inch diameter container is perfect for a balcony. The trick is to plant a variety of flowers that will attract a diversity of pollinators. For example, some bees have short tongues and others have long tongues so they'll be looking for different flower shapes.

The best plants are varieties native to your area. You can find regional plant lists at the Xerces Society and the Pollinator Partnership.

Before I plant flower seeds, I check out what flowers the local pollinators are visiting. In my garden and yard, these are red clover, wild mustards, Queen Anne's lace, asters, milkweed, henbit and deadnettle (both in the genus Lamium), and goldenrod. They may look like “weeds”, but bees and butterflies love them. All I need to do is sprinkle some calendula seeds, maybe add a few bee balm plants, and toss in some cosmos and I've got a lazy-gardener's pollinator patch! I also let some of my herbs go to flower. Bees like to hang out on basil, and flower flies love corriander and dill.  

Pollinators need more than flowers, so I keep a shallow dish of water in my garden. I fill it with stones, so the bees and other visitors don't fall in, and put it in the shade of peppers or tomatoes.

There's one more, very important consideration for creating a safe place for pollinators in your garden: don't use pesticides.

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