You may not even realize this, but you want them; you need them; you have to have them in your garden. Nope, I'm not talking about fertilizers or miracle planting techniques or magical combos. I'm talking about pollinators, the overlooked and unsung heroes of healthy, thriving gardens.
Without the visits of a cadre of winged visitors, we wouldn't have apples, pears, almonds, cherries, flowers and most other crops. Noted entomologist Dr. Stephen Buchman once said, "For every third bite of food we ingest, we can thank our wild-insect pollinators."
Thank you, insects, birds, bats and other critters who inadvertently move pollen from one bloom to another, scattering their payloads and ensuring abundance, diversity and a healthy gene pool.
How to make your pollinators stick around:
Cultivate an array of flowering plants, from small to large. I like to underplant with thyme and then work my way up the floral ladder with coral-bells, coreopsis, daisies, fennel, feverfew, parsley, cilantro, native currants (Ribes), California lilac (Ceanothus) and towering sunflowers.
Small flowers attract small pollinators such as syrphid flies and tiny azure butterflies. Big flowers attract all sizes of pollinators, from no-see-ums to hand-size moths.
Salvia, fuchsia, flowering currant, trumpet vine, honeysuckle and many other tubular flowers attract long-billed hummingbirds that move pollen from bloom to bloom.
Make a mud puddle! Keep an area of your garden muddy, or fill a big saucer with mud and keep it moist. Pollinators of all types, from beautiful butterflies to fuzzy-rump bumblebees, stop to sip moisture and minerals from the soil. Many build homes out of your mud supply.
Provide orchard mason bees with small wooden nesting boxes drilled with holes 5/16th inch wide and about 3 inches deep. Female mason bees outfit the hole with provisions of pollen and nectar, lay eggs and build cell caps of mud.
Finally, never use pesticides, fungicides or herbicides - even organic - in a pollinator garden.
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