What's all the buzz about gardens for pollinators? For starters, 85% of all flowering plants rely on pollinators! Without them you would not have many of the fruits and vegetables that you enjoy eating. Examples of common foods dependent upon or benefit from pollinators are apples, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cucumbers, pumpkins, almonds, melons, squash, peppers, tomatoes, spices, cocoa, coffee and figs just to name a few! As the saying goes, “1 in 3 bites” of our food relies on pollinators. So the next time you are at the supermarket look around at the produce section. Now look again but imagine 33% of the shelves are bare. Without pollinators, that could be a reality.
If your vegetable garden is not doing well or your fruit trees are failing to produce, chances are that you are not attracting enough pollinators into your yard. Our pollinators travel about without regard to property lines or fences. Creating a pollinator friendly garden is simple no matter how big or small. By planting a garden focused on welcoming these insects, you can increase the number of pollinators in your area. Select plants that provide adequate food sources for bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds and other pollinators. You will need both pollen and nectar producing plants with bright colors and a variety of shapes and sizes to attract many different pollinators. Stick with plants specific or native to your area (avoiding non-native and exotics) which better support pollinators. Have a combination of spring, summer and fall blooming flowers and whenever possible, plant in groups of 3 or more to better “grab” the pollinators attention. When planting annuals go with old fashion heirlooms (avoiding hybrids) and intersperse them among the vegetable plants in your garden. You can also designate a section of your yard strictly for a pollination garden and reduce grassy areas by planting more pollinator friendly trees, shrubs and plants. No matter if you are planting in flower pots, window boxes or garden beds you can make a positive impact one plant at a time. One yard is great, but a string of yards is even better!
In 2007 the U.S. Senate unanimously designated one week each June as National Pollinator Week. Several years later( 2011) Penn State Master Gardeners began certifying Pollinator Friendly Gardens. Pollinators need our help. Their numbers are in decline due to habitat loss, disease and contact with pesticides. Penn State Extension Master Gardeners are taking action to protect pollinators by planting pollinator friendly gardens and providing education for the gardening public. Won't you make an effort by gardening with a purpose, selecting plants that provide food, shelter and nesting sites and limiting the use of pesticide? Pollinators will, in turn, provide the pollination needed to protect our plant diversity and food sources. Certifying your property as “Pollinator Friendly” will help support a healthy ecosystem for our community and the future. Plus, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you are making a difference!