How to Have a Pollinator-Friendly Garden
Having a pollinator-friendly garden is a good project for school, for your community, or simply as a personal initiative. And as long as it’s outdoors, there are different options of spaces to place it. It could be in the neighborhood park, the schoolyard, the garden of the house, or even in a window.
In this way, we also give a hand to our planet. This kind of action benefits plants, birds, and insects, who get food (nectar and pollen) as well as a habitat. Read on and we will tell you how to do it!
A pollinator-friendly garden: What are pollinating animals?
Before explaining how we can make a garden friendly to pollinating animals, it’s important to learn to recognize these species and how to attract them.
Because we tend to consider them a pest as soon as we see them, we often think about how to eliminate insects from the garden by spraying some product. While some are harmful, we should know that many species – on the contrary – are beneficial.
They go from one flower to another and collect pollen to feed on. On their way, they drop particles, which makes fertilization possible in plants. Among the most common are the following:
- Bees are the best-known insects within this category. There are more than 20,000 species in the world, although many are at risk of extinction. They feed on pollen and nectar and not only help in reproduction, but also produce honey.
- Butterflies belong to the order of Lepidoptera; they are also pollinators, but only of certain plants, in which they spawn so that their caterpillars can feed.
- Ladybugs are brightly colored beatles; in addition to pollinating, they also help control pests such as aphids and spider mites.
- Syriphids are often confused with bees or wasps but are distinguished by their large eyes and rather small antennae. According to studies, they have been shown to be important for several species in agricultural ecosystems.
Hummingbirds are among the main pollinators. Their fast flight and bright colors make them very attractive to the eye. In addition, research indicates that there are other species of birds that are nectarivorous, such as the honeycreeper (Coereba flaveola) and, to a lesser extent, the pinchaflores (Diglossa spp).
Several bats have been identified as pollinators, both of the non-fruit (M. mutisiana Kunth) and fruit plant species; for example, the pequi or souari nut native to Brazil and widely consumed in the Amazon basin by traditional communities.
Other pollinators: mammals
Finally, other small mammals can also play a pollinating role. These include monkeys, rodents (squirrels), and coatis.
How to make a pollinator-friendly garden
To have a garden that’s pollinator-friendly, we must think about both plants and animals, as well as the space and resources we have available. There are several things to do, so let’s get to work!
Observe your area
First things first. We must learn to observe as naturalists do. There are several questions to answer:
- What animals frequently visit the site or are typical of the area?
- What are the plants preferred by these species?
- At what times and for how long do they visit?
- On which side is there more sun or shade?
- What other plants are in the area?
Planning a pollinator-friendly garden
Once these questions have been answered, you should draw up a plan or map, indicating where the plants could be located, depending on whether they are in sun or shade or according to the access of pollinators. Of course, this choice also depends on the space.
It’s good to know that there are different ways to design a flower garden. In this sense, you can take advantage of the space by making a vertical garden, with pots on the balconies. However, be careful with open windows and people who are allergic to bees.
Regardless of where you are going to plant – in the ground or in pots – the soil must be suitable for plants. Soil rich in organic matter is ideal. However, there are species that prefer sandy soils, which retain little water; meanwhile, others prefer clay soils.
It’s necessary to know these details before you begin to guarantee the healthy growth of the plants.
To attract pollinating animals to our garden, it’s necessary to choose the plants that they like the most. However, it’s best to think of species that are typical of the area, since they’re easier to maintain because they are adapted to the unique conditions of that environment.
Pollinator-friendly garden: Different tastes
If you want to attract a particular pollinator, you should plant the plant they like the most – that is, their favorite food. With respect to this point, take the following into account:
- Bees favor wildflowers. It’s better if they are native to the region.
- Verbena, mallow, begonia, and bird of paradise are mentioned among the plants to attract hummingbirds.
- In the case of butterflies, the monarch prefers milkweed; others like marigolds and daisies.
- Ladybugs are attracted to anise, coriander, dill, fennel, and parsley, among others.
- Syrphids release nectar from aromatic flowers; they prefer plants such as chamomile and thyme.
Something very important is to have a variety of plants so that there are flowers at different times of the year. This will allow pollinators to always have a food source available.
Water and other food
Animals also need water, apart from nectar or pollen from the plants. In addition, they can be attracted to other foods; for example, a little sugary drink or some seeds.
Provide a pollinator-friendly habitat
Some larger plants with strong branches are ideal for bird nests. You can use pebbles to make a shelter for insects, such as ladybugs. Meanwhile, butterflies can also use slotted boxes for their chrysalises or bees can use them for their hives.
Other suggestions for a pollinator-friendly garden
To make our garden more pollinator-friendly, you can follow these recommendations:
- Group plants according to their light requirements.
- Do not use pesticides or other substances to keep pests away; it’s best to use natural products.
- Avoid placing artificial lighting nearby, it’ll attract bees, even at night.
- Do not burn garbage or make bonfires or barbecues in the garden.
Why be pollinator-friendly?
There is a great diversity of studies stating that, at present, the reduction of pollinating animals has become one of the greatest environmental challenges on the planet.
Research also points out that there are several causes for this phenomenon. Among them are the following:
- The use of pesticides
- Crop expansion
- Cattle ranching
- Introduction of exotic species
This can have consequences not only for the balance of ecosystems, but also for food. Although some crops such as rice and corn are pollinated by the wind, the vast majority depend on insects or birds. For example, these include:
Of course, such a situation also affects the economy. According to an article published in a Mexican magazine on biodiversity, it’s estimated that in countries like the United States, the value of pollinators represents some 400 billion dollars a year.
So, there are countless reasons to have a pollinator-friendly garden and fight to prevent the disappearance of these species. If this were to happen, neither animals nor humans would have many options for food. Nor would it be possible to enjoy the scent and color of flowers.It might interest you...