Plant Pollinator Gardens and Enjoy the Many Benefits Birds, Butterflies and Bees Can Bring to the Landscape

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Gardening expert Melinda Myers shares sage advice for planting pollinator gardens this season as well as other tips for attracting birds, butterflies and bees to the garden and why gardeners should welcome them in.

A monarch rests on a Tithonia plant.

Even a window box of flowers can help.

Whether planting a garden, enjoying the beauty of the landscape or sitting down to a delicious meal, people around the world have bees, butterflies and other pollinators to thank. These essential members of the ecosystem are responsible for much of the food and beauty that is enjoyed each day, explained Melinda Myers, horticulturist and host of the “How to Grow Anything” DVD series.

Unfortunately pesticides and habitat loss are threatening their existence. However, there is something that can be done. Gardens, backyards and balconies can pretty easily be turned into a pollinator’s habitat.

Plant a variety of flowering plants that provide nectar and pollen throughout the season. Planting masses of natives, herbs and other pollinator favorites like sedum, zinnias, alyssum, cosmos, and columbine will attract these beauties to the landscape. Include a variety of day and night blooming flowers in a variety of colors and shapes to support the widest range of pollinators. Gardeners however should not let a lack of space dissuade them. “Even a window box of flowers can help,” said Myers.

Keep plants healthy and blooming with proper care. Match the plants to the growing conditions, provide needed water and fertilize with an organic nitrogen fertilizer like Milorganite when needed. This promotes slow steady plant growth that is less susceptible to drought and pests. Plus, the slow release low nitrogen won’t interfere with flowering which is essential to the health and well being of our pollinators.

Supplement pollinators’ diets with a bit of rotten fruit. And be sure to provide trees, shrubs, parsley, dill and other plants that caterpillars, grubs and the immature stage of other pollinators prefer to feed upon. Put away the pesticides and tolerate a few holes in the leaves of their favorite plants. With a diversity of plants, gardeners can easily overlook the temporary leaf damage. Plus, this is a small price to pay for all the benefits pollinators bring to the garden.

Provide pollinators with shelter from predators and the weather. Include a variety of trees, shrubs and perennials. Leave patches of open soil for ground nesting bees and some leaf litter to shelter some butterflies, bumblebees and other pollinating insects. Supplement natural shelter with commercial or homemade nesting boxes. Do-it-yourself plans can be found on the internet from various educational sources.

Puddles, fountains, birdbaths and even a damp sponge can provide needed water. Include water features with sloping sides or add a few stones to create easier access. Or sink a shallow container of sand in the ground. Keep it damp and add a pinch of sea salt for the butterflies and bees.

Maximize efforts by teaming up with neighbors. Together people can create a larger more diverse habitat that provides pollinators with the resources they need to thrive.

Soon gardeners and their communities will be rewarded with greater harvests, beautiful flowers and colorful birds and butterflies visiting these gardens.

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Diana Paul
Melinda Myers LLC
+1 (414) 771-1888
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