This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and our members.
Help the Pollinators with a Victory Garden 2.0
The passion and urgency that inspired the original Victory Gardens are needed today to meet another threat to our food supply and our environment—the steep decline of pollinators. Pollinator decline is an ecological reality of our time, well-publicized in the media, and evident to anyone who gardens or even steps outside during the growing season. It is not your imagination—research studies confirm what we are seeing, or, rather, not seeing.
It is fair to say that we are facing a pollinator crisis. It’s been a long time in the making, but many of us simply have not noticed until recently. Now is the time for a new gardening movement – Victory Garden 2.0 for pollinators. Every yard, garden, rooftop, porch, patio, and corporate landscape can help win the war against pollinator decline.
1. Plant for a succession of blooms throughout the growing season. Different pollinator species emerge at various times of the year and have different lifespans and periods of activity. Create an ongoing pollinator buffet throughout the growing season by planting a succession of overlapping blooms.
2. Include some native plants to support pollinators and your ecosystem. Evolution matters! Native pollinators have evolved with native plants and may excel at pollinating those species. In some cases, pollinators and plants are dependent on each other. Let Mother Nature be your guide in plant selection.
3. Plant a diverse array of plants with different flower shapes, sizes, and colors. Each type of pollinator is attracted to different plant characteristics. Not every pollinator can access the same kind of flower, either—some need very open flowers while others can use more closed flowers or long, tubular flowers.
4. Incorporate flowering trees, shrubs, and vines in your landscape. Many woody plants offer a volume of flowers that can feed a large number of pollinators. Early-blooming trees and shrubs are often critical sources of nectar or pollen early in the season. Some woody plants are also larval host plants for butterfly and moth caterpillars and provide habitat to birds and other creatures
5. Create floral targets for pollinators. Make it easier for pollinators to find flowers by planting enough of each plant species to feed them. Sizeable patches (3 square feet+) of the same plant are the easiest for pollinators to find. In naturalistic gardens without true groupings, repeat each plant species throughout the area – pollinators will find them.
6. Provide nesting sites for pollinators in your landscape. Seventy percent of native bee species nest in the ground and need bare soil in a sunny spot. Dedicate small areas to these ground-nesting bees and keep those zones free of foot traffic. Accommodate the other 30 percent of bees that nest in old mouse holes, tree cavities, pithy plant stems, dead trees, crevices in stone walls, and the like. Other types of pollinators have different habitat needs—a well-layered landscape (trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials) will accommodate most of them.
7. Add some single-flowered plants—they provide easy access for pollinators. Bees and other pollinators don’t want to have to work to get their food. Open, single-flowered plants provide easy access.
8. Reduce or eliminate pesticides from your garden. Synthetic pesticides and some organic products can be reduced without major damage to most gardens. Skip pesticides altogether and attract nature’s pest control (beneficial insects) to your garden with plants that support them. In all cases, responsible use according to label directions is important.
9. Reduce or eliminate your lawn. Turfgrass lawns are ecological wastelands for pollinators. Determine how much lawn you really need and replace the rest with plants suggested above. For any lawn you keep, manage it responsibly.
10. Add a pollinator habitat sign to your landscape. Help raise awareness about the importance of pollinators and make a point of showing off your Pollinator Victory Garden to family members, friends, and neighbors with a pollinator habitat sign.
There are many different signs that are available including:
– Pollinator Habitat sign from Xerces Society
– Certified Wildlife Habitat sign from National Wildlife Federation
– Monarch Way Station sign from Monarch Watch
– Certified Butterfly Garden sign from North American Butterfly Association
By adding Pollinators in your Victory Garden 2.0, you will be helping your garden, your community, and the global community!
Excerpts and photos reprinted with permission from The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening, by Kim Eierman, EcoBeneficial, published Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. 2020.