Having the right features in your garden will help attract pollinators, but the gardening practices you follow will make sure they stay there and do all the wonderful pollination they were born to do. Here are a few garden practices to employ to create pollinator friendly gardens.
1) Pick native plants. While some pollinators are adaptable and will get nectar from hybrids, local pollinators evolved with native plants. Be sure your garden includes some native species.
2) Plant single flowers. People love the over-the-top fluffiness of double flowers. Bees — not so much. They like flowers that have the pollen front-and-center with a relatively easy way to get to it. Consider adding some single roses or native coneflowers to your garden this year.
3) Incorporate grasses in your planting beds. While flowers are where the nectar and pollen is, pollinators use grasses, especially native bunch-type grasses, for nesting sites. Bumblebees, particularly, nest in grasses.
4) Avoid insecticides. Systemic insecticides are particularly harmful to pollinating insects because they may stay in the plant a long time.
5) Plant for early and late bloom. When bees wake up in spring, the pickings are slim. Some of the early sources of nectar include crocus and dandelions. Let some of your dandelions flower for the bees. Also, plant late bloomers, such as asters, to support pollinators after many summer blooming plants have faded.
6) Don’t plant invasive species. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a great list of invasive plants to avoid. The problem with these plants is they crowd out the native species that are good for pollinators.
7) Plant for all phases of life. If you want Monarch butterflies in your garden, plant milkweed. It’s the only plant the caterpillars can eat. If you want blue swallowtails, lay out a buffet of parsley for caterpillars.
Tomorrow: Plants for pollinator friendly gardens.