by Debbie Clark
If you have visited the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge you have probably noticed the large amount of pollinators that visit the bridge. Pollinators are birds, bees, butterflies, moths and many other different types of insects that are responsible for pollinating our flower gardens, vegetable gardens, fruit and nut trees. Pollinators play an important part in our ecosystem and in our lives. Without pollinators we would not have many of the foods that we enjoy. Creating a home pollinator garden is a great way to help support and care for pollinators. Here are some steps to create your garden:
- Find a quite natural location that has limited activities, foot and vehicle traffic. Look for an area that is not frequented by deer and other plant eaters. The area should receive plenty of sunlight throughout the seasons.
- Do not use chemicals like herbicides or pesticides in the area of your pollinator garden or nearby. Herbicides kill plants and many insects both in adult or larva stage that feed on these plants. Pesticides kill the good bugs and the bad bugs. Let natural predators feed in your garden.
- Pick the right plants! Some hybridized plants may not contain enough of the right food for pollinators. Consider growing native plants for your garden. Native plants are plants that grow and flourish where you live and have grown in your area for a very long time. Make sure that you read plant tags for how tall the plant will grow, how much sun or shade is required, what types of soil is required and when and how long that it blooms. Do your research if selected plants are nectar plants or larva food plants and if they provides good pollen. When selecting your plants make sure that you select plants that bloom early and plants that bloom late into the season providing food during spring, summer and fall. Consider the color or shape of flower blooms in your plant selection. Hummingbirds prefer red or orange colors and hummingbirds, butterflies and bees prefer tubular shaped blooms. Some good plants to select from would be asters, bloodroot, blue salvias, milkweed, creeping phlox, goldenrod, violets, trilliums, lupines, columbine, Echinacea and black-eyed Susan to name a few. Do not forget about trees like redbud, catalpa and honey locust. Many trees and shrubs are good food sources for pollinators.
- When you plant your garden make sure that you supply adequate moisture while the plants are growing and until they are established. You might want to consider not mulching your pollinator garden since some ground bees will need to enter the soil. Make sure you deadhead and weed your garden for continued bloom and do not fertilize. Native plants do well without fertilizer. Clean up your garden in the fall leaving some leaves on the ground and cut perennials back to about a foot. Many insects and bees like to overwinter inside the plant stems.
- Add a birdbath, birdhouses, bee houses, bat houses, butterfly puddling areas or a small pond to complete your pollinator garden.
Debbie Clark is a retired Master Gardener, Lake Lure Flowering Bridge volunteer and LLFB board member. Visit her Facebook site for more gardening at “Hickory Nut Gorge Gardeners”.