Happy Spring Equinox! As the weather warms up here in Michigan, I can’t help but to think of my favorite parts of this season. Sure, the warmer temperatures are great, but there’s something exciting about seeing trees and plants flourish again. So, in celebration of spring and new growth, I thought I would write about bee/pollinator-friendly plants you should have in your gardens!
What are pollinators?
Pollination itself is the only way a plant can become fertilized and produce flowers and fruits. Pollinators are any insect or animal that carries pollen on its body between flowers. Although there are many different methods of pollination, between 75% and 95% of all flowering plants in the world need help from pollinating animals and insects. Bees remain the most well-known pollinators, and I’m sure many of us learned about the importance of bees in grade school. Unfortunately, they are in danger of going extinct. Although they are not on an extinction watchlist as of yet, they are dying in exponential amounts each year for a myriad of reasons, including habitat destruction, invasive species, and pesticides.
Why should I care about pollinators?
The truth is, none of us can live without pollinators! More than 150 crops in the U.S. depend on pollinators, including all fruits and grains. If pollinators disappeared, our food supply would collapse. You may have also learned that plants are crucial in maintaining clean and safe air. Without pollinators, plants would not be able to reproduce, meaning the air quality would become exponentially less safe as plants disappear. And as plants disappear, soil everywhere becomes more loose because of the lack of roots holding them in place. Natural disasters would run rampant without pollinators, especially landslides and flooding. If all of this sounds dramatic, I want to assure you that it is worth the attention! If you are still not convinced, I’m linking a “read more” section, as well as a sources section at the end of this blog.
Why plant a pollinator garden?
Planting a pollinator garden is the best way to support your local pollinators. When you plant a pollinator garden, you give your pollinators access to plants that otherwise may be difficult to find. If you also have a vegetable garden in your yard, you’ll likely yield more crops because of the pollinator presence. These gardens are beautiful and can also serve as a tool for education. I grew up with a pollinator garden in my front yard, but another valuable option is to find unused land in your neighborhood and propose to use it for a pollinator project or another type of community garden.
What are the steps I need to take?
- Plan your garden. Remember to plant a variety of plants that can bloom from early spring into late fall, so there are overlapping blooms. It’s highly recommended to plant things that are native to your region. For all our Michigan community members, these plants would include Culver’s Root, Milkweed, Yellow Coneflower, and Aster. Even better, purchase your native plants from a local greenhouse.
- Avoid modern hybrid plants, as they have almost no ability to produce nectar or pollen and are not useful to pollinators.
- Plant in clumps instead of spacing different plants, and avoid landscape fabric and mulch.
- Eliminate your pesticide use and limit the use of chemical fertilizers. Instead, challenge yourself to make your own compost!
- Build or purchase a bee condo. Building your own can be a great family activity to do with children! Detailed instructions can be found here.
- Keep learning on your own! I am not an expert and there definitely is more to learn. The “Read more” section at the end of this blog is a great place to start.
Here’s to hoping spring will bring some growth and warmth for all of us, including our pollinator friends!