If this is the year you start your first pollinator garden, congrats and fair warning! This is an enthralling endeavor that will indubitably lead you down the path of plant hoarding. There are simply too many spectacular plants to limit yourself to just a handful. But a handful is all you need to start your first garden. If you are providing a food source for pollinators- nectar- and a host plant- something for the caterpillars to eat-, you have a pollinator garden.
When you graduate to a larger garden you have the option of working with seeds, plugs or potted plants. Most of the time we opt for potted plants. They give instant gratification, and you can typically tell if the plant is healthy and viable when you select it from the nursery. If your space is more generous, and you want to add large areas of the same plant in your garden, much like what we did at the new Pollinator Garden at our Wimberg office, plugs may be a smart option. The plants and roots were about the size of a popsicle. They were easy to plant (small holes to dig), easy to move about the garden-we can carry the entire flat of plugs in one hand as we plant- and there was very little waste- just one plastic flat. Many of the plants we installed in the early spring flourished, reached over four feet in height and many bloomed. Plugs are an economical way to add a lot of plants to your garden at once.
As for seeds, we are experimenting with several options at the shop. The downside, we may not know what’s what when they emerge. In some areas we provided a clean slate for the seeds and should know if it’s a seed or weed emerging come spring. However, in our wilder areas, we don’t have the time or luxury to thoroughly prep the site, it may be more of a struggle to differentiate weeds from desirable plants.
“For the new gardener, I recommend starting with living plants purchased from reputable nurseries and garden centers,” shares Scott Beuerlein of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. “I want new gardeners to find success and satisfaction with their first pollinator garden, not frustration and struggle. Seeds are fun, but can be very tricky and at times unreliable. Starting with well-chosen, smartly sited, properly planted, healthy young plants is a surer path to gardening success, and, of course, the closest thing to instant gratification that gardening can provide. Later on, as one progresses, growing from seeds can offer greater possibilities. So much fun, so educational and rewarding. But, early on, early success that builds confidence and momentum is the way to go!”