As warmer weather makes its way into the region, some may begin to think about starting their yearly flower garden. When thinking about what flowers to plant or fertilizer to use, gardeners should also consider another important factor: How can they make their garden pollinator friendly?
Pollination plays a vital role not only in making gardens bloom beautifully, but also from a food and plant diversity standpoint.
“They are carrying that pollen and creating a diverse number of lots of different kinds of plants, which is crucial for plant diversity,” said Julie Weisenhorn, University of Minnesota Extension educator and associate extension professor.
While many think of bees when thinking of pollinators, there are many other insects and animals that also do pollination, such as beetles, wasps, bats, certain birds and even flies. Flies come in second as the most efficient pollinator in the world.
“Primarily we think of the most efficient pollinators and those are our honeybees and native bees in Minnesota,” Weisenhorn said. “Bees pollinate 80% of the foods in the world; they are extremely important.”
The bees’ physiology helps them in their pollination efficiency. The hairs on their body attract and hold pollen grains as they move from flower to flower. Bees also visit one specific type of flower, gathering pollen from all the like flowers. Then they will move on to a different type of bloom.
Weisenhorn also suggests gardeners stay away from pesticides in an effort to make their garden pollinator friendly. She suggests choosing plants that will naturally thrive in the garden's natural conditions. Therefore the soil’s health, overall sunlight and available space are important factors to consider.
“Very rarely do homeowners need to use any sort of chemicals in their garden,” Weisenhorn said.
Adding blooming diversity to a garden can also help boost pollination. Gardeners should choose a variety of plants that not only flower in the summer, but also bloom in early spring and late fall as well.
Weisenhorn encourages gardeners to reach out to their local extension educators or office if they have any questions or concerns about their gardens. They can also visit https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden for more information.