Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Plant for Pollinators!

Blackberry provides food for you and for bees!
Organic management of a garden or yard naturally encourages pollinators to thrive in your yard.  Planting native flowers that encourage pollinator activity allows your yard to contribute to the local ecosystem, while also using ecosystem services to improve the quality of your yard.
  1. For a guide to how to choose and group plants for all different types of pollinators, check out "Selecting Plants for Pollinators: Eastern Broadleaf Forest", a publication from the Pollinator Partnership and North American pollinator Protection Campaign.  This guide includes information on how to support the pollinators most of us forget about including moths, beetles, flies and wind.  The guide also mentions bats, which do not act as pollinators in the Northeast (though they offer numerous other invaluable ecosystem services), but they are vital pollinators in warmer areas in the Southeastern US and much of the tropics.
  2. Review this list of non-native flowers that grow well in Connecticut that attract butterflies compiled by the NRCS
  3. Pay attention to the season when these flowers bloom, be sure to choose flowers that bloom in all different times throughout the spring, summer and fall (which also means your garden will be consistently beautiful through these seasons). Observe when most of the flowers in your garden bloom and consider which seasonal gaps need to be filled.
  4. You should also get to know our native pollinator bees a little better.  They might not make honey, but they have supported the breeding and reproduction of Connecticut's plant-life for thousands of years before European honeybees came to the United States.You can support native bees using plants from this list published by the Xerxes Society (yes, the plants on these lists do overlap quite a bit - that makes it easier for you!)
  5. Never (ever) use pesticides: Recent studies carried out in the UK, France and in the US by the Harvard School of Public Health tied pesticides, especially neonicotinoids to Colony Collapse Disorder.  While a number of scientists have taken issue with the study, it seems like we should use the precautionary principle and not risk the health of our region's valuable pollinators.  These chemicals are also thought to be quite harmful for hummingbirds.
  6. Bee Balm or Monarda
  7. For information on how to attract hummingbirds to your yard, check out this blog post from a couple years ago by one of the NOFA Organic Land Care Program's Accredited Professionals, Debbie Roberts - "A Hummingbird Cafe" and this list of flowers that attract hummingbirds.  Remember to try and choose natives!
Happy planting (and pollinating!)

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