How to Best Cultivate Your Native Pollinator Garden
1. Find Your Region
Naturally, the best way to attract native pollinators is with native plants, so the first step to creating your native pollinator garden is to establish which plants are native to your region. Further on is an extensive list of the native plants used in the pollinator gardens at Franklin and Marshall College to help you, but a field guide to your local environment or a simple internet search is sure to provide you with plenty of options.
2. Establish Your Soil Type
Native plants will be more likely to be adapted to your soil type, but test your soil for its acidity, nutrient content, and drainage in order to ensure you are selecting plants that with thrive your soil. You can do this using a soil testing kit from a hardware store
3. Variety is Key
Because there are such a diverse number of pollinators out there, it is best to grow a large variety of plants to attract as many as possible. Choose plants of different sizes, shapes, colors, and scents as to ensure that your garden contains plants that are attractive and accessible to as many pollinator species as possible.
4. Go Organic
Growing an organic pollinator garden is especially important as many pesticides can be harmful to pollinators, and bees in particular. Pesticides - in patricular, a class of pesticides called neonicitinoids - are thought to be the main culprit in causing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in honey bee hives. In addition, many of the important native pollinator species are insects that will be repelled by generic pesticides.
5. Use Host Plants
One way to ensure you are attracting pollinators is to use the native host plants for pollinator larvae. For example, the swamp milkweed host to monarch and queen butterflies. Larvae eat the foliage of these plants.
6. Additional Tips
Include old dead wood or pieces of lumber with holes drilled inside to provide a nesting area for native bees. Having areas exposed to morning sun is also important; many pollinators, including butterflies, use these areas to bask and warm their body temperatures so that they can go about their daily activities. Providing overripe or rotting fruits will help in attracting butterflies, and supplying sugar water in a hummingbird feeder will bring hummingbirds to your garden in droves (it does not need to be red!). Having a clean water source is also important for pollinators.
Resources for Gardening Information
- Gardening for Pollinators - US Forest Service
- Pollinator Conservation: Constructing Native Pollinator Gardens - Xerces Society
- Organic Gardening Tips and Tricks - Planet Natural
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Database
- Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder
- The Importance of Pollinators - National Resources Conservation Service Pennsylvania