CREATING A POLLINATOR GARDEN ~ In Harmony With Nature
Conventional pest management has led us down a slippery slope of insect communities being destroyed and dominated by only a few species. This spells trouble for everything we grow because it creates an imbalance in our garden and environment. It’s not too late to throw away your pesticides and chemical concoctions, and grow a garden that is in harmony and balance with nature.
A large percentage of the world’s flowering plants and food crops depend on pollinators to reproduce. As gardeners, we can harness the power of pollinators by choosing plants that attract beneficial insects, bees, butterflies and birds. In the process we will create a garden that is in harmony with nature.
Attracting pollinators into your garden starts from the ground up…the soil. The health of your garden soil works like a chain reaction that effects your whole garden environment. A garden that is overrun with problem bugs is a garden out of balance.
Start by not using any pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers anywhere. To bring a garden into harmony and balance requires completely eliminating the use of pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. There are decade’s worth of scientific articles about the direct relationship between the increased use of synthetic fertilizers and the increased susceptibility to pests, disease, and plant disorders.
The nitrogen in synthetic fertilizers and any high dose fertilizer like 20-20-20 are processed from petroleum. They contain trace elements of arsenic, heavy metals, lead and various other, equally-obnoxious substances that remain in the soil indefinitely. These toxic substances are absorbed systemically into the cellular structure of plants. This provides a worthwhile reason to use only organic fertilizers that have low N-P-K ratings. Organic fertilizers are ideal for feeding your plants that in turn feed the pollinators.
Healthy, moisture retentive, well drained soil is one of the single most important elements of successful gardening. Creating healthy soil in sandy or heavy clay soil is as easy as adding worm castings or certified organic compost. In clay soil, the compost breaks up the clay and in sandy soil the compost creates moisture retention. By adding worm casting when you pant and top dressing yearly you will begin to see your plants thrive.
Adding all natural mycorrhizal fungi when planting or to your existing garden will contribute to faster root growth, greater resistance to pests and disease and more drought tolerance. It is applied only once or when dividing plants.
Insects are essential to the harmony and balance of your garden. They provide the essential pollination of food crops, flowers and decomposition of organic materials. There are approximately one million species of insects and only a small fraction are considered pests. We should value insects for the vital role they play in keeping our gardens and environment healthy. Many insects are important beneficial predators. We should learn to recognize these good bugs because they are essential in keeping the bad bugs under control. Learning to identify and attract them will help you create a well-balanced vibrant garden.
Nature is filled with a diverse selection of many different pollinators that include beneficial insects, bees, butterflies and birds. Some beneficial insects include: The adult hoverfly, also called a syrphid fly, resemble little bees, but they don’t sting, pirate bugs eat thrips, parasitic mini-wasps, and ladybugs dine on aphids.
With the addition of plants that attract pollinators and beneficial insects you will encourage them to live permanently in your garden. Planting a wide diversity of flowers will sustain them and allow their populations to increase.
There are many plants that attract favourable insects into the garden. It is best to choose the widest variety of plants that will bloom at different times throughout the season. The following plants are some of the best plants to attract the widest selection of pollinators.
Up to ten different bee species visit Tiarella (foamflower), so adding them to your home shade garden increases the pollen for bees in the spring when they need it the most. More bees mean better pollination.
There are so many beautiful varieties of Alliums (ornamental onion) that attract bees and good parasitic wasps. These wasps do not bite humans.
Penstemon strictus (beardtongue) is a late spring bloomer that will bring the ladybugs in to devour those nasty pests. The purple, trumpet shaped blooms that also attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop) is a long blooming native perennial that attracts many different pollinators.
Echinacea provides many months of nectar for all the pollinators.
Liatris (gay feather) is a summer blooming, architectural perennial that attracts many butterflies and beneficial insects.
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) attracts almost every kind of beneficial insect. Butterflies also love this plant, but to keep this biennial under control, deadhead the seed heads and from the collected seeds plant a couple for next year. Its job as a garden protector is immeasurable. So next time you may re-consider not pulling this plant out.
Monarda (bee balm) is a highly fragrant perennial that attracts many beneficial insects, hummingbirds and butterflies. It is a great source of nectar because of the many trumpet shaped blooms.
Leucanthemum (shasta daisies) attract so many beneficial insects which make it one of the best garden performers for both flower power and insect control. Shasta daisies will attract bugs that eat thrips, aphids, mites, scales, fungus gnats and whiteflies.
Many herbs also attract beneficial pollinators. Angelica, Dill and Fennel attract the widest variety of beneficial insects.
By adding these plants to your existing perennial and vegetable gardens you will begin to create the essential habitat for pollinators to thrive. Attracting these good bugs into your garden should be thought of as a cumulative benefit. Results are not an ‘instant fix’ to a problem. As your plants mature, more and more pollinators are established. It will provide a long term solution that will create balance and harmony in your garden. I hope I have inspired you to build a backyard oasis that encourages pollinators to take up residence and continue to thrive.
All plants featured in the botanical gardens are grown on-site and are for sale at the on-site organic perennial nursery/garden centre.
ADDRESS: Plant Paradise Country Gardens is located at 16258 Humber Station Road, Caledon Ontario
Plant Paradise Country Gardens was awarded The 2017 Canadian Destination Garden Centre of the Year. “What better place is there to learn about planting than surrounded by summer’s stunning perennials in full bloom at GardenFest?” For more information visit: www.plantparadisecountrygardens.ca or call 905-880-9090.