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Attracting More Pollinators to Your Garden

When you think of attracting more pollinators to your garden, do you think it will be more work? I’m happy to share that it’s not more work. In fact, I find pollinator gardens to be easier to care for than more traditional gardens.

Ditch Shredded Mulch  If I even need mulch in my gardens, I opt for pine straw. It’s easier to use, there is less waste (no plastic bags) and it never smothers a plant or becomes so tight as to restrict air and water circulation in the soil.

“Forget” to Mulch Some Areas Did you know that we have about 500 species of bees in Ohio and many are ground nesting? To make them welcome in my garden I leave some soil exposed.

Water   Everything needs water to survive: birds, bees, even our drought tolerant plants. If you don’t have a natural water source for the pollinators to access, consider a shallow dish with rocks. The rocks create little platforms for the bees and other insects to rest on while they drink. Clean it regularly. 

Small Brush Piles If you are accustomed to keeping a tidy garden, this may be a difficult habit to adopt. Consider leaving small piles of debris about the landscape. They can be inconspicuous: tucked behind thicker, taller plants or around the yard shed. These spots are ideal for pollinator nesting sites and give beneficial animals a place to hide and rest, too.

Weed By Hand   I do not use chemicals for weed control in the garden. I plant thick, so the desirable plants minimize weed germination. When I do get weeds, I pull them by hand. Why go to the trouble of creating a pollinator garden only to spray it with chemicals? 

Late Winter Cut-Back  Many plants offer seeds for foraging birds. So come fall when everyone else is busy cutting back their garden, I leave mine be. If the plants still have seeds on them I certainly don’t want to cut them back. Come early spring, when I’m eager to get into the garden, that’s when I can tidy things up a bit. 

Cut and Drop  A prairie is not raked or cleaned out each season, so why should your garden be? When possible I like to cut my plants back and let the cuttings stay where they land. Once a new layer of pine straw is placed, those old stems will be out of sight. 

Trees & Shrubs  Flowering perennials are so seductive in the nursery! I can’t visit without bringing home a stash of new plants. But, I also take care to ensure my gardens and any new gardens we design, have shrubs and trees to benefit the pollinators. Besides good garden design, (various heights, textures and environments-shade and sun) trees and shrubs offer a habitat for pollinators of all sorts. One of my favorites is the redbud. I can hear the hum of bumblebees as I approach my flowering redbud in the spring. 

Plant in Groups  Pollinators are drawn to stands of the same plant. Should you wish to add echinacea to your garden, simply buy five or more and plant them in a cluster or a curving band in the garden. That makes designing and planting easier.

Annual Input  While I don’t use a lot of annuals, there are many that are prized by pollinators. Incorporating annuals is an easy way to add more color to the garden as well as fill in areas in a perennial garden that is still maturing.

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