Producers have know for years the importance of pollinators (they even have their own week!) and the necessity of keeping them in your field or garden. A pollinator is an insect that causes plants to make fruit or seeds. They do this by moving pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another part. This pollen then fertilizes the plant. Only fertilized plants can make fruit and/or seeds, and without them, the plants cannot reproduce.
We are eight easy tips that we found most useful in attracting pollinators and keeping them around all season.
- Plant Clover, Herbs, and Native Plants. White Dutch clover will attract dozens of pollinators to your area and it also fixes atmospheric nitrogen into a form the grass can use, resulting in a beautiful green lawn! Herbs, especially those in the mint family, are very attractive to pollinators. This family includes thyme, oregano, sage, basil, peppermint, lavender, catnip and rosemary. Native plants also will attract native pollinators. Check to see what is native in your area.
- Create Diverse Plantings. Different pollinators are active at different times of year, so include a variety of plants that bloom from early spring through late fall. To attract the full spectrum of pollinators, choose plants of various heights, including flowering trees and shrubs, and those with a range of flower shapes and sizes.
- Avoid Hybrid Plants. Many flowers that have been bred for beauty have lost the nectar or pollen that made them valuable to pollinators. Plants with double or triple rings of petals, or plants with unusual colors or variegated patterns are probably over-hybridized.
- Provide Water and Leave Open Mud Patches. Many ground-nesting bees need open patches of mud for their homes or for building materials. Also, insects are attracted to wet areas, so running a hose will help.
- Add Sea Salt or Wood Ash to Bare Dirt. Pollinators are often seen collecting minerals from salty or ashy areas. Your patch needn’t be large and it shouldn’t be overworked. If the insects need it, they will find it.
- Leave a Tall Patch of Grass. Tall grass provides protection, shade, and hunting grounds for many species of pollinators. Some pollinators—such as hover flies—feed on insects as well as nectar, so they do best in a place that provides an alternate food source.
- Put Your Flowers Out and About! The more plants that are available, the healthier the pollinators will be.
- Use no pesticides. This one seems obvious, but pesticides are also necessary in certain circumstances. Make sure you reduce your use if you need pollinators.