14 Jul Pollinators in the Garden
You’ve planned your garden, put in your beautiful plants and figured out how to care for them. But there’s one more component that’s vital to a healthy garden: pollinators.
Pollinators are your greatest ally in the garden. They range from bees, to flies, moths, ladybugs and hummingbirds. They transfer pollen between plants, allowing those plants to make fruit and seeds, the things you’re looking to harvest.
An Introduction to Pollination:
Plants want to make seeds and, for most of them, they need pollinators to do that. As a result, plants have evolved to attract pollinators as much as they can. Flowers produce nectar, a sugary liquid that insects like moths and bees love to drink. It also happens to be what honey bees use to make honey. Pollinators also eat pollen, the protein-rich powder that flowers produce. This pollen, in addition to being a tasty snack for insects and humans alike, is half of the reproductive material needed for a plant to make seeds.
When a pollinator, like a bee, a ladybug or a fly, visits a flower, they feast on the available nectar and pollen. In the process, their body gets covered in pollen. When they visit another flower of the same species, that pollen is transferred to that flower’s ovary, allowing fertilization to happen. In a few weeks or months, that flower will be able to make seeds!
Why Pollination is Important:
Many plants cannot produce fruit without pollination, like apple trees, squash and almonds. And even if a plant doesn’t require pollination to reproduce, pollination will produce better, larger fruits. If you’d like the flowers in your garden to spread, they need pollinators to facilitate them making seeds.
How to Help Pollinators:
We know how important pollinators are, but what can we do to help them? Planting pollinator friendly plants, like sunflowers, herbs and bee balm is a great start. Make sure you are planting flowers in clumps, so pollinators can visit many blossoms in one trip. Pollinators also need food throughout the season, so plant flowers that bloom at different times of the year, so there is a consistent food source. You can also install a bee house or hotel, a structure intended to house solitary bees.
To learn more about how to help pollinators in your own garden, come to our pollinator-themed Permaculture Through the Seasons workshop on July 27th, when we’ll be installing a native bee hotel and discussing pollinators in ifarm’s beautiful permaculture garden. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn about ifarm’s permaculture practices and take home plant cuttings.