The Pollinator Victory Garden: Winning the War on Pollinator Decline

Kim Eierman

Kim Eierman

Founder of EcoBeneficial!

Available for virtual and in-person landscape consulting, talks and classes.

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The Pollinator Victory Garden!

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Bumble Bee on Solidago

The Pollinator Victory Garden: Winning the War on Pollinator Decline

You don’t have to be a gardener or a landscape professional to know that many pollinators are in trouble.  The White House has taken notice and on May 19, 2015, released the “Pollinator Research Action Plan.”  In the summary of the plan, three “overarching goals” are cited; unfortunately, our 4,000 species of native bees were not highlighted in these goals, but are mentioned in the body of the plan.

The 3 “Overarching Goals” of the National Pollinator Research Action Plan:

1) Honey Bees
Reduce honey bee colony losses during winter (overwintering mortality) to no more than 15% within 10 years.

2) Monarch Butterflies
Increase the Eastern population of the monarch butterfly to 225 million butterflies occupying an area of approximately 15 acres (6 hectares) in the overwintering grounds in Mexico, through domestic/international actions and public-private partnerships, by 2020.

3) Pollinator Habitat Acreage:
Restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next 5 years through next 5 years through Federal actions and public/private partnerships.

A national project is absolutely essential to save pollinators, but we need to do more.   A yard-by-yard initiative is in order to save pollinators.

In World Word II Americans rallied to create over 1 million Victory Gardens – food gardens for defense.   We can do it again – this time creating Pollinator Victory Gardens to defend pollinators and our food supply.  Let’s win the war on pollinator decline!  Every yard counts.  Here’s how you can do it:

How to Create a Pollinator Victory Garden

1) Plant for a succession of bloom from spring through fall.
Different pollinator species emerge at different times of year, and have different lifespans.  Create an ongoing “pollinator buffet” throughout the growing season.

2) Skip the double-flowered plants – they have little, and sometimes no, nectar or pollen.
What is beautiful to the human eye may be a source of starvation for a bee or other pollinator.  Find the beauty in what a plant does, not just how it looks.

3) Don’t forget to include trees and shrubs in your landscape – pollinators need them.
Many “woody” plants are important for pollinators, and not just those with showy blooms. Some early blooming native trees and shrubs can be a source of nectar or pollen to early emerging bees. Some trees even provide habitat to pollinators.

4) Emphasize native plants to support pollinators.
Evolution matters! Native pollinators have evolved with native plants; some may depend upon a single type of plant. One example – Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweeds. Many native plants are good nectar and pollen sources for the European honey bee, too.

5) Plant a diverse array of plants with different flower shapes, sizes and colors.
Different pollinators are attracted to different plant characteristics (see other side of tip sheet). And, a pollinator’s tongue length, body size and shape will determine what flowers it can use. A plant with long, tubular flowers can be accessed by long-tongued bees, but will not be useful to shorter tongued bees like Honey Bees.

6) Maximize floral targets for pollinators.
Make it easier for pollinators to find flowers – plant a size-able target of a single plant species or repeat the plant throughout your landscape. Some pollinators will only forage on a single plant species during a foraging trip – make sure they don’t go hungry!

7) Provide nesting sites for pollinators in your landscape.
70% of native bee species nest in the ground and need bare soil in a sunny spot – dedicate small areas for these ground-nesting bees.  Accommodate the other 30% of bees that nest in old mouse holes, tree cavities, pithy plant stems, dead trees, etc.

8) Eliminate chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides.
Chemical pesticides are often very deadly to pollinators.  Even some organic products can be lethal.  Skip the “secret sauce” and attract beneficial insects, nature’s pest control, to your garden with native plants.

9) Reduce or eliminate your The Green Desert (your lawn).
Figure out how much lawn you really need and lose the rest – its an ecological wasteland for pollinators.  Replace lawn with flowering perennials, trees and shrubs.

10) Add a pollinator habitat sign to your landscape.
Help raise awareness about the importance of pollinators and make a point of showing off your Pollinator Victory Garden to family, friends and neighbors.

Pick up some full-color Pollinator Victory Garden tip sheets for yourself, your family, friends and neighbors, your garden club or group.

From Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!

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