Bring Pollinator Power to Home Gardens

March 14, 2019

Just how critical are pollinators to the success of a garden? Very, since butterflies, birds, bees, and bats all help maintain habitats. But pollinators are in danger, and that poses a major risk for everybody. One out of every three bites of food we consume is attributed to the help of pollinators. Honeybees usually get the greatest attention; their population has been on the decline since the late 1990s and one-third of our food supply depends on their pollination.

Toynbee Trail credit Michael Spencley for the MPGC

© Michael Spencley for the MPGC

But there’s good news to cheer—and it might be something your clients want to be a part of. The National Pollinator Garden Network, headquartered in Washington, D.C., released a report February 26, that says its four-year “Million Pollinator Garden Challenge” has registered more than 1 million gardens that have increased habitats, which, in turn, have helped pollinators thrive. Urban and suburban individual residences compose 85 percent of the registered gardens. The group’s goal now is to convince more homeowners, community organizations, and cities to choose pollinator plants, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and flowers—and when possible, those that bloom in multiple seasons.

Here are tips you can pass on to your garden-loving homeowner clients who want to do more.

  1. Vote with your wallet. Some garden centers and big-box stores with plants for sale are reducing and even phasing out production of flowering plants treated with neonicotinoids, or insecticides resembling nicotine. Research has confirmed that they harm pollinators. Go to the stores that don’t stock them. If you don’t know, ask what they carry and, if they carry plants with neonicotinoids, suggest they might switch.
  2. Help spread the ripple effect. Planting flowers, herbs, and fruits not only helps pollinators but also leads to a better food supply. Increase awareness among those around you—encourage your local community leaders and city councils to adopt pro-pollinator pledges and policies. For example, all 50 governors have already made pollinator proclamations, 39 states have 109 policies in place to help pollinators, and 20,000 schoolyards have new or enhanced pollinator gardens.
  3. Wildlife benefits, too. A report from the National Wildlife Federation states that one-third of the country’s wildlife is at risk of extinction. They, like people, rely on pollinators as a major source of their food supply.
  4. Plant a pollinator or, better yet, two or three. The NPGC is asking gardeners to plant at least three new plants—one each for spring, summer, and fall to provide three seasons of pollen and nectar to nourish pollinators. Three top favorites are milkweed, coneflowers, and coreopsis, but choose plants that thrive in your region.
  5. Get your community on board. The top five metro areas active in the pollinator network are New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Philadelphia-Camden, N.J. Put yours on the map. To track the outcome of this movement, the NPGN encourages everyone to participate in projects that help pollinators; visit scistarter.org/pollinatorgardens to learn more. There’s even an iOS app. Download it today.