Vermont Garden Journal: Preparing For Pollinators
Monarch butterflies and honey bees have become the poster children for the plight of pollinating insects. More and more, we are realizing the importance they play in our food system and ecology. While the threat is global, there are things we can do in our own yards to help the local populations, like creating a pollinator garden.
Pollinator gardens are functional for insects and animals but can still be beautiful. Start with realizing that you'll need a diversity of plants to produce nectar and pollen from spring until fall. Flowers, herbs and wildflowers are key.
Plant in groups so the insects can find the flowers easily. Choose a diversity of flower types such as umbel, daisies and foxgloves. These will all favor different insects. Grow heirloom varieties of flowers you love such as scabiosa, nicotiana, echinacea and yarrow for the best pollen and nectar. Get constant color, nectar and pollen from succession perennials, such as iris, geraniums, daisies, rudbeckia and asters. Be sure to avoid using any pesticides in the garden.
Don't forget to grow evergreens, shrubs and trees. These also produce food for pollinators when flowering, and provide habitat for them to hide and nest. Leave fallen logs and snag trees in your yard and create meadows with wildflowers for this reason, too.
Pollinators also need water. Small water features, bird baths or clay puddles that you periodically fill, will be enough for these creatures to stay hydrated.
Involve your kids and grandkids in your new pollinator garden. Register it with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. They're encouraging gardeners to create one million pollinator gardens to help our bees, bats and other pollinators.
Now for this week's tip: whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not on Groundhog Day, it's too early to start most seeds indoors. In Vermont, we always have at least six more weeks of winter.