Bats, birds, butterflies, and bees are constantly working to pollinate our flowers and crops, making sure we have a successful harvest or beautiful yard. However, populations of some of these helpers are in sharp decline. Many factors are involved in this but the most detrimental include: pesticide use, diseases and parasites, and loss of food or habitat. Here are 10 ways YOU can help in your garden, lawn, school, or community garden!
- Build bee housing. Bird and bat houses can be placed nearby so that these animals visit but also live near the garden. Bees enjoy a home with nooks and crannies such as a pile of wood or a cinderblock filled with twigs so they can nest. We made our own Bee & Bee, instructions here (link to next blog entry)**
- Provide a water source. Make sure you have a place where pollinators can rest and rehydrate. A shallow basin of water on the ground, bee bath (link to bee bath blog post), or even a puddle will do. Let a hose or faucet drip just enough to form a muddy sipping spot. For an extra touch, add sea salt or wood ashes to puddle for micronutrients and minerals.
- Include plants to feed pollinators at every stage. Make sure to have plants that feed both immature and adult stages of pollinators. Developed butterflies, for example, have a completely different diet than their young, caterpillar counterparts.
- Plant a variety of flowering plants that will bloom from spring to fall. This will provide pollinators with nectar and pollen to feed on consistently. Group flowering annuals and perennials in clumps to make it easier for pollinators to locate them.
- Include lots of native plants. Native plants are generally the most beneficial to these insects. Pick ones that are adapted to your location’s soil, light, and moisture conditions to not only help pollinators, but make garden care easier.
- Limit pesticide use, even organic ones. Even those approved for organic gardens can cause harm. If you must, check label for bee hazard information and pick one with the lowest risk. Try to spray in the evening after pollinators have stopped flying.
- Go wild. Leave a small wooded area, hedgerow, or un-mowed “mini-meadow” untouched to provide natural shelter, food, and nesting spots.
- Don’t be too tidy. Leaving some leaf litter or plants out over winter gives pollinators spots to hibernate. A small pile of dead wood provides nesting sites for native bees.
- Enhance your lawn. Some lawn “weeds” such as white clover or dandelions actually provide a source of food for pollinators when in bloom.
- Spread the word. Your pollinator-friendly garden makes a big difference but imagine the impact of a whole community of them. If we can teach our friends, family, and neighbors just how important these creatures are, pollinators will soon be welcome in every yard!
Check out the full article here as well as countless garden resources & activities on www.KidsGardening.org.