Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Beginnger’s Guide To Gardening: Pollinators At Work

There are a plethora of animals that enjoy regular visits to your garden, and not all of them are pesky marauders.

Bee On A Purple Flower

Photo: roger.moffatt (Flickr)

If you plant bunches of flowers in a variety of sizes, shapes, scents and colors you will indeed attract pollinators like this bee.

Garden Guest List

You’re not the only one visiting your garden. You have a plethora of animals that enjoy regular visits, and not all of them are pesky marauders – lucky for you!

Spending all your time chasing squash bugs and plucking hornworms may prove a rewarding challenge (and keep you on your toes) but it’s not what you had in mind when you started this venture. You wanted to reap fresh produce and lots of it!

A Little Help From My Friends

However, in order to achieve these results you’ll need a little help.

But not as in, “Hey kids, it’s time to weed the garden!” Or maybe, “Honey, could you mow a nice border around the garden?”

Nah. Not family help (though they do come in handy and are quite helpful when it comes to garden chores). I’m talking pollinators! You know, Mother Nature’s army of busy bees, and butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats…

They’re all important visitors to your garden for whom you’ll want to throw out the red carpet because they make your life easy and your garden fruitful – make that plentiful for you folks determined not to buy one single veggie from your grocer’s shelves. Pollinators are very important and from now on, should be regarded as VIPs.

humming bird flying by a feeder

Photo: hynkle (Flickr)

Hummingbirds are easily swayed by the sweet sip of red "nectar." Just pour it into your feeder and let the hovering begin!

Take Your Shoes Off And Stay A While

How do you get pollinators to hang around your garden?

Ask a kid! They know the answer to this one. You lure them in with sweets and scents and wonderfully bright colors, kind of like pink cotton candy or a triple scooped cone of rainbow colored ice creams. Kids are all over this stuff!

If you plant bunches of flowers in a variety of sizes, shapes, scents and colors you will indeed attract your pollinators. For example, hummingbirds are easily swayed by the sweet sip of red “nectar.” Just pour it into your feeder and let the hovering begin!

And don’t forget the bats. Build them a cozy den and they will be the guests that never leave. (Some refer to this as a bat house, but we want our bats to feel like part of the family, so we call it a den.)

underside of a bat house hanging from a tree

Photo: yaquina (Flickr)

This is an underside view of a bat house hanging from a tree. It appears as though the house has a few residents.

Make A House A Home

Pollinators don’t like to venture far from home, so create a habitat in your backyard that will encourage them to stay. Trust me, your plants will thank you.

While you’re planting and luring your VIPs, be sure to include some water. They do get thirsty and you don’t want them flitting off to find their water source elsewhere. Who knows? They might find it in the neighbor’s garden and start pollinating their plants instead of yours!

One good way to keep them close is a bird bath. Nothing wrong with birds in an around the garden, right? I hear they eat grasshoppers.

Or toads for that matter. These guys definitely like to gorge on garden pests, so why not build them their very own toad house?

Do you have any broken terra cotta pots lying around? Flip them over and position the pots so there is a small entry way in and you have the perfect toad bungalow.

Make Your Own Worm Bin

big pile of red worms

Photo: jarsyl (Flickr)

Plants love worms and we need them to enrich the soil with delicious nitrogen.

But don’t stop there! Time to go underground and give a shout out to those wriggly worms living down there. Plants love them and we need them to enrich the soil with delicious nitrogen.

Can’t find any? Import them with your very own worm bin – er, wormery lodge. You do want them to feel welcome, cozy and cherished as any VIP does, and it’s easier to manage than you think.

  1. Simply find an old box or purchase a plastic storage bin and drill some holes in the top and around the sides.
  2. Line the interior with fine mesh screen so the worms can’t escape through the holes – as if they would even want to.
  3. Next you’ll shred some newspaper and lay it across the bottom. Include a bit of dirt and some leftover food scraps, like greens, breads, eggshells, and coffee grounds.
  4. Then wet the combination down (think damp sponge), add red wriggler worms and voilà! The Wormery Lodge is open for business!

Oh, how I do love a good host. Does that make me the hostess with the most’est?

More: What’s next? It’s time to talk about smart maintenance of your garden, like weeding, watering, and pruning.

Dianne Venetta

Dianne is an author, entrepreneur, and mother. She writes the blog BloominThyme and volunteers as garden coordinator for her children's school garden. At the end of the day, if she can inspire someone to stop and smell the roses (or rosemary), kiss their child and husband goodnight, be kind to a neighbor and Mother Earth, then she's done all right.

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  • WynterDaniels

    We put up a bat house years ago, but apparently it wasn’t in the right neighborhood;-) Never got the first bat. But we’ve been doing worm composting for a few years and we always have great compost to plant things with and less trash from kitchen scraps.

  • Anonymous

    In my father’s banana farm, he has a worm bin which according to him is a good source of fertilizers.
    Then in our home, there’s also a bee house and sometimes my father get some honey from them.

    Abby from Abby from Coconut water juice

  • http://pollinators.blogspot.com/ Beatriz Moisset

    Pollinators are very important and, fortunately, people are beginning to pay attention to them. Some naturalists lead pollinator walks or flower visitors walks, just as there are bird walks. There is no good field guide, nor even a very basic one for beginners, so I have been thinking of publishing one. I wonder whether there would be enough demand, though; so I have been collecting some feedback. So far it has been very positive. Here is what I have been working on: http://polinizador.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/pollinators-and-other-flower-visitors-a-field-guide-for-young-people/

  • Beatriz Moisset

    I did it! It has been two years and I finally published my ebook “Beginners Guide to Pollinators and Other Flower Visitors.” It is available at lulu.com, iTunes and Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beginners-guide-to-pollinators-and-other-flower-visitors-beatriz-moisset/1115214111?ean=9781300824534

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