BY ANN FOSTER THELEN
This spring, make a positive impact on the environment and beautify your landscape by planting a pollinator habitat.
The flash of a colorful butterfly and the buzz of a bumblebee traveling between flowers bring extra beauty and enjoyment to gardens. Planning your garden or landscape to include plants that attract and sustain butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects will increase the diversity of what you see and enjoy. You will also be doing your part to help preserve butterflies, honeybees and pollinators threatened and in decline.
Pollinators help plants reproduce by carrying pollen from one flower to another and can include bats and birds, but most importantly, bees and butterflies.
Pollinators are vital to creating and maintaining the habitats and ecosystems that many animals rely on for food and shelter while facilitating reproduction in 90% of the world’s flowering plants.
Without pollination, we would not have the grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables that comprise more than one-third of global food production.
With these five easy steps, you can create a haven for pollinators and have your yard buzzing with activity!
1. Pick your location
Butterflies and other pollinators like to bask in the sun and some of their favorite wildflowers grow best in full or partial sun with some protection from the wind. The size of your pollinator habitat will depend on how much of your yard you want to devote to growing these beneficial plants. Even a small space can have a big impact on pollinators!
2. Know your soil type and sunny hours
The soil type and the amount of sunlight it gets will help determine the plants you can grow. Your local garden center or nursery can provide tips on the best plants for your property.
3. Choose your plants
Pick varieties of milkweed (Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed, the only host plant for this iconic butterfly species) and wildflowers native to Iowa. Focus on selecting perennials to ensure your plants come back each year and don’t require much maintenance. Remember, pollinators need nectar in the spring, throughout the summer and even into the fall. Choosing plants that bloom at different times will help you create a bright and colorful garden that you and pollinators will love for months!
4. Prep and plant
From converting spaces of your yard to raised flowers beds, think of a pollinator habitat as a canvas for creating. Plant flowers in clumps rather than single plants. Add nutrient-rich compost or soil to improve the success of your garden.
5. Wait, watch, water and weed
Butterflies and other pollinators will soon flutter into the garden as plants develop and flowers bloom. Weeding and watering your garden will keep it healthy. Keep in mind that milkweed may take a couple of seasons to start producing flowers.
Ann Foster Thelen is the editor of Iowa Electric Cooperative Living magazine.