While most flying insects will usually send us running, the garden welcomes bees and other pollinators with open arms. What is a pollinator? It is an animal or insect that causes plants to make fruit or seeds by moving pollen from a one part of a flower to another. Once this happens, the plant becomes fertilized and reproduces. Hummingbirds, butterflies and bees are typically the best pollinators, but occasionally, spiders, flies and even wasps can act in the same capacity, but maybe not as efficiently as bees.
The more pollinators that visit the garden, the better it will produce fruits and vegetables. However, there are a number of other insects, quite beneficial, that can ensure a healthy garden environment, and help prevent other, more destructive pests from invading. Below are a few ways to get some help from friendly insects who may want to visit your garden this season.
Choose plants that flower for longer periods of time. Include lavender, sunflowers, marigolds and cosmos to name a few. Be sure to deadhead the buds when they start to fade away. Doing so will ensure that the plants will continue to put their energies into producing more flowers all season long.
A favorite plant of this gardener is lobularia maritima, or sweet alyssum as it is more commonly known. It is very hardy and will bloom continually even when the temperatures become a little unpredictable. Beautiful white and purple flowers offer a splash of color in those pockets of the garden that are often neglected. While they can be grown from seed, it’s easier to just purchase them from the local nursery in planting packs or pots.
Our friends at Sprout it highly recommend planting borage, an annual herb with star-shaped blue flowers. Not only is the entire plant edible, but it makes a great addition to the garden due to its ability to attract pollinators. Self-sowing, it will surely become a fan favorite while continuing to bring bees, hummingbirds and butterflies back to the garden year after year.
Consider planting marigolds around the border of the garden. Providing splashes of color, marigolds also offer natural insecticidal properties and aromas that distract those unwanted pests from latching onto your favorite plants. They can be planted in a continuous border all the way around the garden or partway around, whichever works best.
Remember that some kinds of plants won’t require any pollinators, while others can be pollinated by the wind. Summer raspberries won’t produce at all without pollination and strawberries reproduce more slowly and with less fruit without pollinators around. Now that the chance of frost is truly over, get out into that spring garden and start planting all those herbs, veggies, and of course, those great plants and flowers to attract the pollinators all throughout the season.