We've all heard about the plight of our pollinating insects. Whether it be honey bee population crashes or concerns about native bees, pollinators are struggling with diseases, climate change, and habitat loss.
If you think bees are just those nuisance insects around the picnic table in summer, think again. Pollinators are responsible for 75 percent of the crops we eat. So, next time you have some blueberries, squash, almonds, or even chocolate and coffee...remember the pollinators.
Pollinators aren't just honeybees and bumblebees. There are scores of native flies, bees, butterflies, bats and beetles that pollinate crops.
To help pollinators, grow a pollinator friendly garden. Start with growing a diversity of plants with flowers blooming from spring through fall. These can be annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs, trees, bulbs, and even weeds. Dandelions are one of the best pollinator plants around!
Avoid using pesticides in your garden. Select flower varieties with good quality pollen and nectar for insects. Grow a diversity of flower forms, such as umbels, like Queen Ann's lace; composites, like daisies; tube-shaped flowers, like foxgloves; and cup-shaped flowers, like geraniums.
Mix in evergreen shrubs and deciduous trees. Willows and oaks are great trees for supporting insect and bird activity. Leave old snag trees, branches, and grassy areas around for nesting.
And finally add water. A bird bath, fountain or even just a wet, muddy spot in the shade all help support pollinators. Even a small change to your gardening habits, can make a difference.
You can even join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. This consortium of non-profits wants to create one million pollinator gardens across the country.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about Valentine's flowers. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.