Damage to their habitat, shifting weather patterns, and pesticides have made pollinators none too happy, but you can create an pollinators’ oasis in your own garden. By growing organically, you’ll make a huge difference to the health of your pollinators, many of whom are bugs themselves: bees and butterflies. This will lead to big benefits in the vegetable and fruit-growing department, since many of our plants need animal pollination in order to set fruit. But how else can you make things cozy for your local pollinators? These techniques might seem strange to humans, but they’ll make your garden a welcoming home for your pollinators.
1. See Red
Hummingbirds are often overlooked as pollinators, and while it’s true that they often visit the lovely red and pink flowers in your garden, some of these flowers are on food plants. They love our Pacific Northwest salmonberry flowers, and they also seem to quite enjoy the little yellow flowers of the Oregon Grape. Try planting food plants that have red or pink flowers and see if you can attract some of these (relatively) giant-sized pollinators. Scarlet runner beans, anyone?
2. Make a Mud Pie
Mud is gooey and great for preschoolers, right? Yes, and it’s also the favorite building material of bees such as the mason bee. These lovely little pollinators are indigenous to North America, and they rarely sting. Like masons, the mason bees love to stick things together, and they use mud to build their nests. This mud is essential for their reproduction.
3. Don’t Clean Up That Mess
A messy garden is a diverse garden. Add plants with hollow stems and cut them off so that they’re not quite cut to the ground, and you’ll have a garden full of holes where mason bees like to live. If you have a little bit of open soil in your yard that seems to be buzzing, you might be hosting a colony of bumblebees. These bees are less aggressive than your local wasps, so if you’re able to give their home a wide berth you will reap the benefits of their early season and early morning pollination abilities. They’re especially useful when you’re growing tomatoes!
4. Say Hello to Herb
You don’t need to get all fancy about your planting to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. If you’re short on time for research, best to plant a whole lot of herbs. Many herbs are hugely popular with bees and butterflies and with other beneficial insects such as the hoverfly. They also host baby ladybugs – the pretty predators of the garden.
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5. Grow Baby Butterflies
Before they fly gracefully in the sky, stopping to pollinate your food, butterflies are earth-bound little larvae with a voracious appetite. Do you know how to grow caterpillars? Butterflies lay their eggs on the food that their babies need to survive, and this food can be quite specific. Take a look at this amazing list of food plants for your local caterpillars, and you’ll learn how to plant a garden for these baby butterflies. Three plants you might never guess are on the list: oak, willow, and the common plantain.
Is your garden buzzing with pollinators? What weird techniques do you use to create an attraction for your local birds, bees, and butterflies?