Pollinators are animals such as bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, and hummingbirds who help pollen travel between plants. Many plants that we use for food and other products require pollination for a successful harvest. By providing pollinators with food and safe spaces in your garden, you will help boost their numbers to improve the productivity of your own garden and support local agriculture.
What do pollinators need?
1. Protection from pesticides
Avoid using synthetic chemical pesticides wherever possible. Also be aware that even organic pesticides will kill both harmful AND beneficial insects - so only use them where and when you need them! Hand-picking and nocturnal covering are the best ways to minimise harm to pollinators. Other options for organic pest control include diatomaceous earth, kaolin clay, insecticidal soaps, neem oil, and beneficial predator insects (nematodes, lacewings, and ladybird beetles). If you must use a pest control agent in your garden, apply it late in the day when most pollinators are not as active. This way you can minimise the number of pollinators harmed.
2. Shelter and nesting spaces
Keep your yard and garden messy! Many pollinators nest in mud or decaying twigs and leaves. Provide patches of open soil and some twigs and leaves for nesting material. Providing a water source is also helpful - dripping water bottles or shallow dishes filled with rocks and water are safe water sources for tiny insects. It is important to change the water often to prevent disease and mosquitoes from proliferating.
Variety is the key! The best way to protect pollinators is to have a wide variety of flowers that will be in bloom at different times of the year. Native plants are best for native pollinators, but non-native flowers (including lavender!) can also be excellent nectar sources. A mix of different flower shapes and sizes will also help maximize the variety of pollinators that will benefit from your garden. Flowers with bright colours are particularly attractive.
4. Provide host plants
Host plants are plants that the larvae of pollinating insects (especially butterflies) feed on. Host plants we keep in our gardens here on the farm include swamp milkweed (Monarch butterfly larvae), pearly everlasting (American painted lady butterfly larvae), and parsley (Eastern black swallowtail larvae).
Hopefully these tips will help you make your garden friendly for pollinators. Remember, even a tiny garden can make a huge impact!
If you’d like to add lavender as a nectar plant to your pollinator garden, you can purchase seeds here from our very own spray-free lavender plants. We also sell seedlings in person at our farm store + market locations in late spring-early summer, so stay tuned to our social media for details about that in the springtime.
Here are some links to resources with many more ideas for developing an attractive pollinator garden:
Image credit: Julia Thiemann