If you love to grow lush flowers and tasty vegetables in your garden, you’re relying on the work of pollinators, probably without realizing it.
Pollinators are the silent engines of the natural world – they pollinate the plants that we and other animals on Earth eat so that we can have clean air and plentiful food sources.
But their populations are being threatened. And without pollinators, there wouldn’t be much left for the rest of us.
So, how can you help birds, bees, and butterflies thrive in your garden? Keep reading to find out!
All About Pollinators
What are Pollinators?
Pollinators are insects and small animals such as birds, bees, bats, and butterflies that help to carry pollen around your garden.
Pollen movement fertilizes plants so that they can fruit, flower, and reproduce.
Some pollinators intentionally move pollen, and others do it accidentally as part of their feeding or mating process. Either way, pollination is crucial to a thriving garden ecosystem.
Why do we Need Pollinators in our Gardens?
But pollinators don’t just make our gardens look pretty.
They help clean the air, keep soil from eroding, support local ecosystems, produce natural resources, and so much more.
More than 75% of all plants on earth need pollinators to reproduce and survive. It is estimated that one of every three bites of food you eat is a result of pollinators’ efforts!
Clearly, pollinators are so important to our natural world. But they’re in danger. Many significant pollinator populations, namely bees, are in severe decline.
Several factors negatively impact pollinators, including pollution, climate change, and the growing use of pesticides. However, one factor that you can directly influence is the loss of pollinator mating and feeding habitats.
By making gardens safer for birds, bees, and butterflies, you can have a hand in supporting declining populations that are vital to the world’s ecosystems.
A Guide to Making Your Garden Safe for Birds, Bees, and Butterflies
To create a garden that is safe and nourishing for birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, you need to take three important steps:
- Grow the right plants
- Provide shelter and water
- Reduce your use of heavy pesticides and chemicals
Most plants need pollinators, but certain varieties are more likely to attract pollinators to your garden than others.
And even though pollinators are often small insects, they still need shelter and water to survive.
It’s typical not to view insects in the same way as mammals, but they need the same necessities as any other animal.
If you’re using chemicals in your lawn to kill weeds or pests, those chemicals can harm or kill pollinators, too.
So, depending on what you need to do in your garden to make it more pollinator-friendly, you might need:
- Pollinator-friendly plants
- Organic pesticides or alternative methods of pest and weed control
- Bee hotels, birdhouses, or DIY shelters
- Fresh, clean water sources
Picking Your Plants
To create a garden that is a haven for birds, bees, and butterflies, you can work from the ground up.
The grasses and flowering weeds you plant and encourage in your yard are a great place to start.
Bees, in particular, love red and white clover, a flowering weed common in many lawns.
Other weeds, including dandelions, goldenrod, and milkweed, are also great food sources for bees and other pollinators.
Flowers and Greens
The most obvious thing you can do to help encourage pollinator populations in your garden to thrive is to plant flowers.
Flowers with a lot of petals can be difficult for pollinators to navigate, which is good to keep in mind when selecting what flowers you want to plant.
Planting wildflowers are great for the pollinators in your garden.
Over the last century, wildflower meadows, natural havens for birds, bees, and butterflies, have been in steady decline.
So why not make a wildflower meadow in your own backyard?
Wildflower beds or containers are super easy to grow and maintain and are so important to pollinators.
Try growing some asters, bluebells, thistle, coneflower, or honeysuckle to attract birds, bees, and butterflies to your backyard.
Most pollinators can see color and are attracted to brighter shades, so be sure to select some good color variety!
Pollinators also love fruits and vegetables, such as:
When it comes to other non-flowering plants in your garden, pollinators love woolly plants.
The tiny hairs on the leaves of these plants are used to build nests, encouraging pollinators to set up camp in your garden.
Flowering, aromatic herbs are also great for attracting pollinators to your garden, whether in a bed or in containers.
Some pollinator favorites include:
Shelter and Safety
Once you’ve picked the best pollinator-friendly plants for your growing area, it’s time to set up some shelter for your little helpers.
Not all bees live in honeycomb colonies. There are plenty of solitary bees that will frequent your garden, too!
To help them out, you could establish a bee hotel or a butterfly shelter.
But solitary bees, like colony bees, like to nest in small holes or crevices, which is why bee hotels work especially well.
Both insects and small mammals alike need a safe place to shelter from weather or lay eggs.
You could even DIY your pollinator shelter using upside-down plant pots or old birdhouses.
And insects, like all other living things, need water.
But if you set out water in a bird bath or bowl, be sure to add some sticks, twigs, or leaves so the smaller insects have somewhere safe to perch.
Other Tips and Tricks
One thing you can do to help out the birds, bees, and butterflies in your garden is to plant all kinds of flowers with a high nectar content and long flowering period close together.
This way, your friendly garden critters don’t have to travel too far to pollinate and get the nutrients they need from the plants.
Another tip is to leave the flowers on plants that you would normally remove or deadhead, like on trees, herbs, or vegetables.
In doing so, you’re providing even more food sources for your pollinators without even trying.
Similarly, if you do have lots of herbs and vegetables in your garden, leave the plants behind after you’ve harvested what you want.
Gardens for Birds, Bees, and Butterflies: FAQs
How can I help pollinators if I don’t have a garden?
You can still help pollinators even if you don’t have a garden or a lot of yard space!
Plenty of flowers and herbs grow great in containers or window boxes.
They don’t take up a lot of space, and the proximity of the different plants to one another will actually make it easier for birds, bees, and butterflies to get to.
If you don’t have the outdoor space for containers, you can still help pollinators by sprucing up any green space you can find in your neighborhood!
Is there such a thing as too many pollinators?
Sure, you could, in theory, have too many pollinators in your garden without enough resources to go around.
But the reality of this is pretty unlikely. Pollinator populations have been on a steady decline in the last few decades, which is the real problem here.
It’s important for people to do everything they can to attract and support pollinator populations in their gardens.
Wrapping up the Guide to Gardens for Birds, Bees, and Butterflies
Now more than ever, making your garden a place where birds, bees, and butterflies can thrive is so crucial to supporting their population.
With just a few easy actions, you can turn your yard into a pollinator haven!
For more information, check out our page all about the importance of pollinators.
- About the Author
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Leah is a writer, editor, and content manager with Minneopa Orchards and holds a master’s degree in English.
She grew up in the south and enjoyed long growing seasons spent in her father’s lush vegetable garden. Buying produce from the store was unheard of in her house!
As such, Leah enjoys writing about gardening and sharing her knowledge and experiences with others.
Leah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org