Here a Pollinator Garden - There a Pollinator Garden – Everywhere a Pollinator Garden - Part 1
Brenda Scheer, Master Gardener
Master Gardener Brenda Scheer understands how important pollinator gardens are for the environment and wanted to start this type of garden. But how to start? This article is the first in a series of three in which Brenda describes her experience starting a pollinator garden in her backyard. Follow Brenda’s motivation, planning, lessons and tips to build your own environmentally friendly garden.
(This is the first in a series of three articles by Master Gardener Brenda Scheer describing her experience starting a pollinator garden in her backyard. Follow Brenda’s motivation, planning, lessons and tips to build your own environmentally friendly garden.)
Pollinator gardens are popping up everywhere but what are they? Pollinator gardens are designed to support and maintain pollinators by supplying food, both pollen and nectar for pollinators. Ok, so what is a pollinator? Common pollinators include: insects and animals such as bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, birds, flies and small mammals, including bats. Pollinators help carry pollen from the male part of a flower (stamen) to the female part of the same or different flower (stigma). This movement of pollen results in flower fertilization and the production of fruit, vegetables or seeds.
Why are pollinators so important?
One in three bites of food we eat exist because of pollinators
75% of all flowering plants on earth are pollinated by insects and animals
Pollinator plants help to clean our air supply, provide oxygen, prevent soil erosion and support wildlife
Given the importance of pollinators and the challenges they are facing I decided I needed to do what I could to help them. But where to start?
I signed up for a webinar hosted by Scott County for their “Lawns to Legumes” program. One of the topics was pocket pollinator gardens. After this webinar, I’m definitely creating a pollinator garden! And I was ready to get started. Something I recommend is starting your plan earlier rather than later. I started planning in April and some of the native plants I wanted to order were already out of stock!
The project manager in me needed a plan. Here are some major steps to creating a new pollinator garden:
Determine the physical location and conditions. Full sun is the obvious choice, however, pollinator gardens can also grow in part sun/shade. Also important is how wet or dry the area is. A rain garden can be a pollinator garden for wet areas.
Prepare the site. Clear the area of existing plant competition and plan how to water young plants.
Choose native plants. Native plants and pollinators go hand in hand. Natives flourish without added pesticides or fertilizers which means less maintenance since they are already well adapted to local conditions.
Use nectar- and pollen-rich flowers with a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Different flowers shapes and colors attract different types of pollinators. To get the most pollinator food per plant, avoid modern hybrids as many of them produce significantly less pollen and nectar to have larger and different colored blossoms.
Have a minimum of three plants in bloom early spring through late fall. This ensures food availability for all pollinators as the emerge for the season.
Create a planting plan. Place plants based on their mature height, width, bloom time and color of blossoms.
Plant in drifts. Groups of three or more flowering plants are easier for pollinators to find than single plants.
Avoid landscape fabric and mulch. Placing plants of varying heights close to one another will create a “mat” of plants to block the weeds even better than mulch.
Next month I will say more about planning my pollinator garden.
Photo Credit: flickr.com (4) & Brenda Scheer (1,2,3)