The call is out, and your garden can 'bee' counted

By Lynette L. Walther | Apr 07, 2017
Photo by: Lynette L. Walther Bumblebees will fly and pollinate when honeybees won’t, which is one reason commercial growers are turning to alternative pollinators like bumblebees and others.

It seems hard to believe that there was a time — not so long ago — when people planned gardens that were designed to exclude bees. Of course it is understandable that a someone with bee allergies might do something like that, but there actually was a short-lived gardening fad to do just that. There also was a time when we thought that all we had to do was to spray or dust with pesticides to eliminate insects we did not want in our gardens, and everything would be just fine. On both counts, we’ve learned a lot in a short time.

Thankfully, most of us are long past all that, and realize these days that bees — and a lot of other insects that serve as pollinators — are some of our best gardening allies. We know that it is unwise and usually counterproductive to single out certain insects to eliminate. Truth of the matter is, the garden environment often depends on a complex web of insect interactions that for the most part work in our favor. And thankfully, we can celebrate and cultivate a variety of insects in our gardens and, yes, everything will be just fine.

Without pollinators, there would be no flowers, no food. Keeping our pollinators healthy is in everyone’s best interest. But in recent years, excessive use of pesticides — both commercially and in home gardens — has led to a decrease in many of our pollinating insects, butterflies too.

With that in mind, those of us in the Association for Garden Communicators (GWA) are on a mission to promote the health of all of North America’s pollinators. But we need your help in this, and are inviting you to participate in the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.

“The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is an initiative of the National Pollinator Garden Network, a collaboration of stakeholders from the garden, pollinator and conservation communities working together to support the health of pollinating animals,” according to the GWA. “The objective of the challenge is to increase nectar- and pollen-providing landscapes of every size in order to address one of the significant threats to pollinator health: the scarcity and degradation of forage. The goal is to promote and count one million pollinator forage locations across North America.”

We know that one of the best ways to attract pollinators is simply to plant flowering plants, shrubs and trees. But there’s more to it than just that. Providing habitat and a welcoming environment involves practices such as eliminating the use of pesticides in the landscape, timing mowing of fields and lawns, limiting cleanup of certain areas for overwintering sites and more. An excellent place to start your own pollinator habitat is with the USDA’s 49-page “New England Pollinator Handbook” which can be downloaded (nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs142p2_010204.pdf). The handbook also includes plant, shrub and tree lists for varieties appropriate for local gardens and properties.

So, here’s the deal: This month all GWA members (including me) join to make a positive impact on pollinator health via our columns, blog posts, podcasts and social media channels by encouraging gardeners across North America to register their gardens for the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. It’s easy and quick and your garden can work with others to make a difference for those all-important pollinators.

How to be involved

Head to the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge website (http://millionpollinatorgardens.org) and complete the following steps:

1. Register your garden as pollinator habitat.

2. Upload a photo of your garden and fill in the necessary information.

3. Select The Association for Garden Communicators from the "Your Organization/Partnership Affiliation" dropdown menu. This will enable us to track how many pollinator gardens are registered as a direct result of our efforts.

This can be the season that you welcome many more pollinators into your garden, help us meet the national pollinator challenge and in the process improve your garden and our environment too.

Pollinators come in a variety of shapes and sizes, like this tiny green wasp. Today’s gardeners value all the pollinators and eliminate the use of pesticides in order to protect them. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
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