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Make a BIG environmental difference with a small garden

Plant a pollinator garden to attract the good bugs

Plant a pollinator garden to attract the good bugs

Congratulations on a cutting edge goal! You are joining a group of gardeners and farmers who are engaged in beneficial insect ecology. Whether your garden is a small yard of flower beds or an acre of vegetables, the lessons you gain from planting a pollinator garden are rich in wisdom.

So swing wide the garden gate and get ready to see sprouts of knowledge take root and start blooming. How about putting in eye catching colorful native plants that will bloom in succession throughout the growing season?

READ MORE: Plant a garden with your kids

The additional benefit is they are a surefire way to attract pollinator insects, the good bugs!

What is a pollinator?
Simply put, a pollinator is an insect that carries the fine yellow powder formed on the anthers of flowers and transfers it to the pistils or other flowers. The flower can produce fruit after this pollen transfer. Common pollinators found in the North East include honey bees, bumblebees, other species of bees, butterflies, flies and wasps.

What is needed is an open, sunny space. If you grow zucchini, butternut squash, or pumpkins or have fruit trees in your yard, they are dependent on insect pollinators to produce fruit. In fact, two thirds of all crops we eat are pollinated by winged insect pollinators!

I bet your family enjoys watching fuzzy bees bumbling around, poking in and out of flower heads. I love to see them appear with a mass of pollen over their faces or on their legs. They remind me of kids slurping ice cream cones!

READ MORE: Make a seed bomb to feed the bees

Blooming with benefits
What is the benefit of planting a garden to attract pollinator insects? If you plant milkweed or butterflyweed, where monarchs lay their eggs, you help increase the population of good bugs. You should include multiple plant species that bloom throughout the growing season such as, Cardinal flower (red lobelia) in early spring and late blooming Asters in fall.

You will be nurturing a miniature storehouse of pollen and nectar at critical times for beneficial insects and be providing a stable source of pollen or nectar. The advantage of using plants is they require less water and fertilizer. It would be wise to intersperse pollinator plants with fruit and vegetable plants.

You may wish to consider adding shrubs like Elderberry, Buttonbush, Azalea, Spirea, and of course, Butterfly bush nearby.

READ MORE: Create inspiring places at home with flower arrangements

Foliage favorites
Popular pollinator plants can easily be found at local garden centers and greenhouses such as Victoria's Garden, Twin Ponds Greenhouse and Adam's Fairacre Farm.

Bugs are most attracted to:
  • Sunflowers
  • Stalks of blue Salvia
  • Cheerful golden Coreopsis
  • Old fashioned Hollyhocks
  • Fiery red Lobelia
  • Echinacea Tomato Soup (think red daisy)
  • Gaillardia (also called the Indian Blanket)
  • Butterflyweed
  • Rudbeckia
  • Asters
  • Zinnias
  • Butterfly bushes
  • Milkweed
  • Beebalm
We put out the welcome sign for butterflies and bees who favor zinnias and sunflowers. Those winged beauties are all over those two plants on sunny days at our farm's Harvest Your Own Bouquet garden.

Sunflowers grow best in areas with direct sunlight. Give them plenty of room, and use bamboo stakes to give their stems the support they need to grow tall.

Enjoy your garden
Best advice for your pollinator garden is BE THERE! Do the common sense gardening methods, use compost for aerated soil, mulch, and celebrate when you see a wiggly worm working for you! Be present to notice, nourish and pull a weed. Tip your head back and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Close your eyes and inhale the joy of the season.

Susan Hurd is owner of Hurds' Family Farm. A portion of the farm is a National Wildlife Certified Habitat, where wildlife may find quality food, water, cover, and places to raise their young. The farm has a pollinator garden that attracts bees and butterflies.