Sustainable Gardening: 5 tips to create a pollinator-friendly garden
Pollinators make the world go round. Without them, we’d be pretty lost. Here are five terrific tips to keep your garden brimming with butterflies and bees.
What are pollinators? And why are they important?
Put simply, pollinators are any creature that moves pollen from the male bits of a plant (the anther) to the lady bits (the stigma), thereby helping to bring about fertilisation so plants can successfully fruit or seed, ensuring that more of them can live to see another day.
Pollinators are an essential part of the process to put food on our plates, drinks in our glasses, clothes on our bods, fuel in our machines and pills in our medicine cabinets. They also bring balance to natural ecosystems, so they’re pretty essential.
Unfortunately, habitat loss and chemical use are making life hard for our pollen-packing friends. Thankfully though, there are plenty of things you can do to welcome them into your outdoor space and enjoy a garden buzzing with bees.
1. Grow nectar-rich flowers
It might seem obvious, but flowers are a good place to start. From March to September, aim to have some pollinator-friendly plants in bloom at all times, so these crucial critters can get busy doing their thing. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Daffodils, grape hyacinth, crocuses, thrift, flowering cherry
Lavender, foxgloves, Scabious, Geranium, hollyhocks, Buddleja
Dahlias (with single flowers), Japanese anemones, Verbena bonariensis, Cosmos
Ivy, Hellebore, snowdrops, Mahonia, winter honeysuckle
2. Go easy on weeding
Yes, you heard that right. This gardening lark isn’t just all hard work. Many plants that would usually be dismissed as weeds and mowed or ruthlessly pulled out are actually valuable food sources for our pals the pollinators.
Bees will go wild for clover and dandelion flowers, and a few nettles left at the margins of your patch will provide the perfect breeding and banqueting ground for the caterpillars of some butterflies and moths.
3. Say goodbye to pesticides
Nasty chemicals have to be an absolute no-no in the garden. They just don’t mix when it comes to wildlife. To keep your garden pollinator-friendly, avoid using pesticides wherever possible. Instead, go au natural and opt for an organic option. Or you could have a go at companion planting.
4. Provide a pit stop
Even pollinators need a place to call home. Butterfly and bee hotels offer them protection from predators and shelter from the elements. Solitary bees will often lay eggs in the cavities and leave their larvae there to hatch.
Pollinating is thirsty work and a dish of water never goes amiss when looking to increase the biodiversity of your garden. Leaving a shallow pond margin or a dish filled with stones will provide a safe source for them to hydrate.