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Posted on Apr 10, 2015

Welcome pollinators into your garden

By Mona Kaiser

The process of education has perked even the ears of the home gardener wanting an increase of knowledge about pollinators, or the lack of pollinators, in our gardens, orchards and farms.
Resources are readily available with information about choosing and growing native and non-invasive gardens to benefit the life of bees and other pollinators.

As home gardeners with a small piece of property, it seems as though we can do little to help improve conditions such as the lack of bees to pollinate our vegetable and flower gardens. However, we can plant for pollinators and work our soil to support their habitat.

Pollination is the process by which plant pollen is transferred from the male reproductive organs to the female reproductive organs to form seeds. In flowering plants, pollen is transferred from the anther to the stigma, often by the wind or by insects.

Animal and insect pollinators promote plant reproduction as they are looking for food for themselves or their young. Although we usually think of insects as pollinators, other groups of animals can be very important pollinators of certain plants. Some of the animal and insect pollinators to watch for are birds, bats, bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, and wasps.

In some cases pollinator decline is because of habitat loss that results in loss of food or shelter. Pollinators can be impacted directly from insecticides and indirectly from herbicides that kill plants used as food sources. Invasive plant species are a huge problem in that they replace native species that may be food sources for pollinator larvae.

There are many ways the home gardener can strive to improve the environment for increased pollinator population. Provide pollinators with what they need, such as food and shelter, and limit activities that may harm them, such as not disturbing the soil for ground nesters or inappropriate use of pesticides.
It’s easy to create an overwintering site by building a pile of logs or rocks, leaving gaps of at least 3 to 4 inches to give shelter from wind and rain. Bee nesting blocks are a relatively simple project. Simply drill a series of holes into blocks of untreated wood.

Remember to research the habitat needs for the different species of pollinators, keeping in mind the different habitat needs according to the life stage of the pollinator.

A typical home landscape serves as an attractive setting for a house; a place to enjoy with family and friends. A typical school or community garden shares many of these attributes.

Pollinator gardens will provide food for a variety of pollinators during the whole growing season, so provide a variety of colors and shapes. Choose plants that flower at different times of year, plant in clumps rather than as a single plant.

If you maintain a fruit and vegetable garden, you probably appreciate how essential pollinators are, and your vegetable garden supports them in large numbers. The fruits and vegetables you grow, from tomatoes to pumpkins and berries to apples, provide abundant flowers and are part of your pollinator habitat. Pollinators are also attracted to small flowers on herbs such as dill, chives, and lavender.

If you’re a homeowner, parent or educator looking for more information on backyard pollinator conservation, you’ll enjoy additional helpful information about pollinators. Check out the book from the Xerces Society “Attracting Native Pollinators.” Recommended websites are xerces.org; pollinator.org; nrcs.usda.gov; and agr.wa.gov/plantsinsects/apiary.

Mona Kaiser is a Master Gardener living in Soap Lake. Jeannie Kiehn, coordinator of the Master Gardener program, can be reached at the WSU Grant-Adams County Extension Office at 754-2011, extension 4309, or at jmkiehn@wsu.edu. Cooperating agencies are Washington State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Washington counties.

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