This article was originally published by Sarah Yule on www.morningchores.com
Over the past years, global diversity has been declining due to human activities. As a homesteader or gardener, you have the control to bring back wildlife and boost the pollination rates in your garden.
How do you attract pollinators? And why should you worry about it?
Without healthy pollination, you can’t grow fruits and veggies that rely on these creatures. Three-fourths of the food we grow requires pollinators. So let’s learn how to improve pollination in your garden.
Why Pollination Is Important
Pollination is a vital part of plant reproduction. Most plants need pollinators like bats, bees, butterflies, moths, and beetles to transfer the pollen from male flowers to the stamens of female flowers.
It’s a mutually beneficial relationship because pollinators typically feed on the plant’s pollen. So pollinators get a snack, and the flowers get fertilized.
In spring, it’s common to see those beautiful blossoms attracting pollinators. Pollinators wake up from their winter sleep to get to work on fruit trees and spring ephemerals.
The work continues in the summer as pollinators feed on summer blossoms. You’ve probably heard the buzz of bees as they reach their peak in the summer. In fall and winter, pollination rates drop as these creatures hunker back down.
Committing to attracting pollinators takes year-round dedication. Yes, spring and summer are the active seasons, but you’ll also want to provide winter protection so that the pollinators will have somewhere to hibernate.
Types of Pollinators
The most famous pollinator is bees, but do you know all the other types of pollinators?
Here is a list of other critters that you’ll want to attract to your garden for more diversity:
The wind also plays a crucial role in pollinating a garden space. Wind pollination is common for trees, nuts, wildflowers, and grasses. But the rest of plants, like veggies, berries, and ornamental flowers? You need to attract pollinators to take care of those.
How To Attract Pollinators
Many methods exist to attract more pollinators and keep the existing ones in your garden alive. Without pollinators, many plants would never get pollinated. That means fewer flowers and food crops.
When you lack pollinators, the only way to ensure that plans get pollinated is to do hand-pollination.
This is the manual process when the male part of the pollen is transplanted to the female counterpart. The aim is to mimic nature and give it a helping hand to pollinate your plants. The exact process depends on the specific species you’re working with.
It can be slow and painstaking work. Let’s attract pollinators to do the work for us. Here’s how:
1. Create Housing
When they aren’t flitting around your garden, pollinators need a place to live. Housing is a key way to attract pollinators.
Bees, butterflies, and moths might make their winter home in leaf litter, in garden beds, in nests in trees, and under logs and rocks. Don’t rake up leaves or move logs or rocks during the winter and early spring to avoid disturbing hibernating pollinators.
If you have to prune plants in the winter, examine the structure for nests. If you see any, avoid trimming that area. Avoid disturbing the soil in the garden during the winter and early spring, as well.
2. Provide Water
The next step is giving pollinators a water source for drinking.
You can create a bee waterer with a shallow saucer or pot with stones for perching. This is perfect for giving bees and other pollinators a place to drink, encouraging them to stay longer on your homestead. Read about making waterers in our guide.
3. Plant Flowering Species
The food for your friendly pollinators comes from juicy nectar around your space. So, you must think carefully about what plants to grow with pollinators.
To start a pollination garden, consider a few things before choosing seeds. Focus on diversity. It’s best to have a range of species in one place to give pollinators new things to explore.
Highly fragrant flowers are attractive, but having a variety of colors is also helpful if you want to attract pollinators. Plus, it will make your garden look vibrant and lovely!
Finally, plant with the seasons in mind. As the seasons change, so do pollinators’ tastes and needs. Therefore, having a mixture of perennials, annuals, and early-season plants will give your garden the diversity it needs.
Definitely choose some native flowers and plants when creating a pollination garden. These plants have evolved with local pollinators, so native plants help encourage native pollinators to visit your home.
In addition to native plants, here are some of the most popular choices for pollinator gardens:
- Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia spp.)
- Chinese Bell Flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus)
- Fuchsia (Fuchsia spp.)
- Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
- Grape Hyacinth (Muscari spp.)
- Heather (Calluna vulgaris)
- Hyacinth (Hyacinthus spp.)
- Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
- Mint (Mentha spp.)
- Rockcress (Arabis spp.)
- Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)
- Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.)
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Plant a variety of flowers that will bloom from spring until fall. Check out our guide to pollinator-friendly plants for more options.
4. Stop Using Pesticides
Studies show a 57% decline in pollination when plants are exposed to pesticides. However, many gardeners continue using these chemicals without realizing their danger to wildlife.
If you want a quick solution to the lack of pollinators in your garden, an excellent place to start is to limit the use of pesticides. Try alternative methods like crop rotation and natural products that don’t harm wildlife.
5. Keep Spaces Messy
Keeping parts of your garden messy is another excellent way to attract pollinators. This might be a little more difficult if you’re a gardener who likes to keep the outdoor area clean and tidy.
But, if you’re willing to put up with some mess to boost pollination, then the mess is your new best friend.
The next time you see a clump of weeds, twigs, and other debris, think twice about throwing it all away. Instead, you can try leaving them as a shelter for bees or butterflies. If the space is natural and wild, it will feel welcoming to them.
Leaving the grass tall and long is also beneficial, providing an ideal space for hiding and protecting from the elements.
6. Leave Some Soil Exposed
Solitary bees enjoy nesting in the ground, so if you don’t leave enough space, they won’t be able to make a home in your garden. Exposed soil signals a new nesting spot for them, so leaving some spaces clear is essential.
That means when adding mulch to the soil, you can leave a small clear space and wait until bees visit.
This method is simple so that you can start it straight away!
Pollinator Gardens Are the Future
As the world is experiencing more issues with climate change and pollinators are becoming more endangered, we must do our best to create safe environments for them. They are a part of the rich biodiversity of nature and necessary for our food crops.
Green space is disappearing more and more every day, so carving out a little space and planting the right species for pollinators is a great way to improve your harvest and have a more exciting homestead.
It takes a little research to learn about your local native plants and start incorporating them into your garden. The wildlife will love it, and it gives you a chance to learn about new, exciting varieties of plants!
Attracting pollinators is easy when you know what to do. So pick out your flowers and make pollinator-friendly spots. With a small or large piece of land, you can start bringing more wildlife to the plants using these tips and tricks.
Give it a try and see what happens!
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