More Growing, Less Mowing

Nature Academy

Have you ever sat in the garden or near a patch of flowering plants and been amazed at the buzz of activity going on around you? Well that “buzz” is presented to us by the task-oriented heroes of the insect world: the pollinators!

Without pollinators, that cup of coffee you enjoy daily, that pumpkin pie that has become tradition during Thanksgiving, the occasional chocolate bar you sneak and countless other food items would cease to exist. In the United States alone, bees and other pollinators are responsible for nearly $40 billion worth of products annually. It is estimated that between 80%–90% of the plants on our planet rely on pollinators to reproduce. Pollinators are essential to a healthy ecosystem and are responsible for the development of the plants, seeds, and fruits we eat. You could say that pollination is almost as essential as water, soil and oxygen!

Asclepias p

But pollinators need our help, and we should all be asking “what can I do?” Short answer: if you plant them, they will come. Bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and hummingbirds are just some of the pollinators you can attract to your own yard. By creating habitats for our native pollinators, we also contribute to our own well-being. Helping them helps all of us!

The best way to ensure a healthy pollinator community is through plant diversity. For starters, you could take a 10’x 20’ (or more) portion of the lawn that you would normally mow and convert it into a pollinator patch. An effective pollinator patch will contain native plants of different sizes, colors and flower shapes. There are many beautiful native plants to choose from when creating a pollinator patch such as Ohio spiderwort, downy wood mint, purple coneflower, New England aster, milkweed, goldenrod and blazing star. Just remember to select plants that flower at different times throughout the year.

Monarch larvae

Monarch larvae

Black swallowtail larvae

Black swallowtail larvae

This habitat should also supply shelter, which could come from exposed soil, stems of last year’s plants, grasses and nearby trees. These native trees may include sassafras, locust, redbud, maples and sumac to name a few. Not only do the trees provide pollen and nectar, but they also provide nesting sites.

Lastly, try to hand weed whenever possible to eliminate or minimize the use of herbicides. Accidental poisoning of pollinators is more likely to occur while the plants are in flower. If you must use herbicide, try to spot spray before or after flowering only.

Together, we should all do our part to help these heroes of horticulture.

Celebrate National Pollinator Week: June 15-21, 2015

Tim Osborne, Nursery Manager