Ten Tips for a Thriving Pollinator Victory Garden
by Guest blogger: Kim Eierman
of EcoBeneficial LLC
Listen to her recent podcast HERE
The passion and urgency that inspired the Victory Gardens of World Wars I and II are needed today to meet another threat to our food supply and our environment—the steep decline of pollinators. Want to help pollinators and create a beautiful garden? Here are ten tips from my new book, The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening.
- Plant for a succession of bloom throughout the growing season.
Different pollinator species emerge at various times of year and have differing lifespans and periods of activity. Create an ongoing pollinator buffet throughout the growing season by planting a succession of overlapping bloom.
- Skip double-flowered plants—they have little, and sometimes no, nectar or pollen.
What is beautiful to the human eye may be a source of starvation for a bee or other pollinator.
- Emphasize native plants to support native pollinators and your ecosystem.
Evolution matters! Native pollinators have evolved with native plants and may excel at pollinating those species. In some cases, pollinators and plants are dependent on each other. Let Mother Nature be your guide in plant selection.
- Include native flowering trees, shrubs, and vines in your landscape—pollinators need them.
Many woody plants offer a volume of flowers that can feed a large number of pollinators. Early-blooming trees and shrubs are often critical sources of nectar or pollen early in the season. Some woody plants are also larval host plants for butterfly and moth caterpillars, and provide habitat to birds and other creatures.
- Plant a diverse array of plants with different flower shapes, sizes, and colors.
Each type of pollinator is attracted to different plant characteristics. Not every pollinator can access the same kind of flower, either—some need very open flowers while others can use more closed flowers or long, tubular flowers.
- Create floral targets for pollinators.
Make it easier for pollinators to find flowers by planting enough of each plant species to feed them. Sizeable patches (3 square feet+) of the same plant are the easiest for pollinators to find. In naturalistic gardens without true groupings, repeat each plant species throughout the area – pollinators will find them.
- Provide nesting sites for pollinators in your landscape.
Seventy percent of native bee species nest in the ground and need bare soil in a sunny spot. Dedicate small areas to these ground-nesting bees and keep those zones free of foot traffic. Accommodate the other 30 percent of bees that nest in old mouse holes, tree cavities, pithy plant stems, dead trees, crevices in stone walls, and the like. Other types of pollinators have different habitat needs—a well-layered landscape (trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials) will accommodate most of them.
- Eliminate pesticides from your garden.
Synthetic pesticides can be deadly to pollinators. Even some organic products can be lethal to sensitive creatures like bees. Skip pesticides altogether and attract nature’s pest control (beneficial insects) to your garden with native plants that support them.
- Reduce or eliminate your lawn.
Turfgrass lawns are ecological wastelands for pollinators. Determine how much lawn you really need and replace the rest with flowering native plants. For any lawn you keep, manage it organically.
- Add a pollinator habitat sign to your landscape.
Help raise awareness about the importance of pollinators and make a point of showing off your Pollinator Victory Garden to family members, friends, and neighbors with a pollinator habitat sign.
Any landscape can help the plight of pollinators. Start using these best practices and you will be rewarded with an abundance of happy pollinators in your own garden!
About this author:
Kim is the Founder of EcoBeneficial LLC and the author of The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening. Kim is an environmental horticulturist and ecological landscape designer specializing in native plants. She teaches at New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Native Plant Center and Rutgers Home Gardeners School.
Kim’s new book: The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening, is published by Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., 2020.