How to create a pollinator-friendly yard

Bee seeks nectar from Cherry Blossom tree

By Mike McCord

The buzzing of bees, the chirping of songbirds — these are the sounds of warmer weather and long summer days. They’re also signs of a healthy yard. While we may not always get along with the wildlife next door, they play an important role in keeping our landscaping and our ecosystem healthy.

Pollinators, which include honeybees, birds, butterflies, even bats and moths, are responsible for the reproduction of about 80% of the world’s flowering plants, this includes commercial crops such as fruit trees, almonds, berries, melons and squash. In the past few decades, we’ve experienced a rapid decline in these important workers, particularly honeybees. An extensive effort is being made to replenish these populations by scientists and governments across the globe, but there are ways you can help, too!

1. Use native species in your landscaping whenever possible.

The adage “build it and they will come” can easily be translated to “plant it and they will come.” Not only are these species noninvasive and supportive of local pollinators, being indigenous to the area means they are lower maintenance and more drought resistant.

Commonly found native species are:
Tickseed, black-eyed Susan, bee balm, coneflower, oakleaf hydrangea, flame azalea, American beautyberry

MONARCH BUTTERFLY ON CONEFLOWER (ECHINACEA)

2. Diversify your plants.

Simply put, the more plants you have, the more pollinators you’ll attract. You can even plant specific plants to attract certain kinds of pollinators.

For hummingbirds, try serviceberry, a native early-blooming tree

For butterflies, the pawpaw, a native fruit tree, is a favorite among zebra swallowtail butterflies and the fruit is edible

For bees, sunflowers (yes, they’re native!) are always a favorite

Don’t forget the cooler months! Georgia has a warm climate that can support flowers well into fall, even winter.

CARDINAL PERCHED ON AN EASTERN REDBUD

Here are some plants that can add color to your garden even when it’s cold outside:

Fall blooms: Asters, ironweed, Joe-Pye weed (king-of-the-meadow)

Winter blooms: Witch hazel, Eastern redbud, spicebush

3. Avoid spraying for mosquitos, if you can.

Mosquitos are the bane of summer weather and spraying for them has become wildly popular, but this kind of treatment often kills more than just bloodsuckers, including bees and butterflies.

Instead of dousing your yard in chemicals, try alternative treatments. A simple DIY treatment is Summit Mosquito Dunks®, which can be found at your local hardware store. These are dissolvable tabs you drop into standing water (where mosquitoes breed), which then releases a bacteria called bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). A common ingredient in many organic insecticides, this bacteria kills mosquito larvae without causing harm to important insects like bees or other animals, such as pets and birds.

Mike McCord owner Community FoodscapesMike McCord owns Community Foodscapes, a socially conscious edible landscaping company serving Atlanta by empowering people from all backgrounds to grow food, restore native habitats and become environmental stewards of their communities. They provide consultations, designs, edible landscaping, garden installations, irrigation, rainwater catchment, drainage solutions, invasive species removal and garden maintenance. www.communityfoodscapes.org

 

You may also be interested in: How to Build A Rain Garden

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