Attractive flower gardens can be a beautiful addition to your landscaping while creating suitable habitat for native pollinators. Native insect pollinators include bees, butterflies, beneficial flies and wasps. With a few simple changes, you can ensure that your home garden space is a beautiful and safe habitat for pollinators.
First, plant as much space as possible with flowering plants nectar and pollen sources. Plan your garden to have plants that will bloom early in the spring and late into the fall to ensure season-long food supplies for the pollinators.
Learn to be more tolerant of what you view as a weed; pollinators see them as food. Be tolerant of clover and other blooming nuisance weeds in your lawn by reducing or eliminating the application of weed control pesticides. These lawn weeds are great nectar sources for pollinators.
Use native plants in your landscaping whenever possible. Native plants will bloom for longer periods and use less water than other plants. Replacing native plants with nonnative species can cause harm to the insects you are trying to help. Fact sheets about native flowers are available from your local Cooperative Extension office.
Plant fruiting trees that bloom at various times of the year. If you do not want to clean up messy fruit, find varieties that are early season bloomers. They will rarely set fruit due to our frequent early frosts, but will serve as a food source when other plants are not blooming.
Create housing or habitat sites for native bees. Create areas away from building structures with clay soil free from vegetation for mud-nest-building bees. Leave canes, stems or stalks from last year’s garden for cane-nesting bees. Reduce disturbance in wildflower gardens to encourage bumblebee nests. Provide access to water with a small dripping area for pollinators to obtain moisture and minerals from the soil. Leave all or at least a section of your wildflower garden untouched throughout the winter to allow insects to overwinter in the plant stubble.
Allow larval insects to feed on plant leaves, stems and flowers to encourage pollinators to complete their entire lifecycle in your garden. Holes in leaves are signs that insects are eating the plant. It is not ugly! It is a sign that you created a home for an insect. Determine what is feeding on your plant before taking action.
Avoid pesticide use when pollinators are present. Do not use systemic pesticides on flowering plants. If you plant milkweeds or other native plants specifically for butterfly larva, do not use pesticides or herbicides near those plants.
Creating pollinator habitat can be a beautiful and simple addition to any landscape. Remember, pollinators need flowering plants, habitat, larval food and water in a pesticide-free area to thrive!
To learn more, attend the free Gardening in Nevada talk “Attracting Native Pollinators,” 6-8 p.m., Feb. 21 at Bartley Ranch Regional Park in Reno. The class will cover identifying, attracting and housing native pollinators and explore how they help with pollination and bountiful harvests.
Joy Newton is the Lyon County Extension Educator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Have plant questions? Contact a master gardener at 775-336-0265 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.growyourownnevada.com.