Gardening Tips: Landscaping to Attract Pollinators & Predators

Vegetable gardeners know that we can't make it without pollinators. Honey bees are under stress from Colony Collapse Disorder, but they aren't the only pollinators at work on flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, and row crops. An astonishing variety of native pollinators work mostly unnoticed to make our food crops possible. They need your help, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service offers tips on attracting pollinators to your garden, offering them shelter, and providing habitat. Review their recommendations at the link or download a PDF version of the brochure.

One important recommendation: limit your use of pesticides!

Pesticides can kill more than the target pest. Some pesticide residues can kill pollinators for several days after the pesticide is applied. Pesticides can also kill natural predators, which can lead to even worse pest problems. Consider the following when managing pests in your garden:

  • Try removing individual pests by hand if possible (wearing garden gloves)
  • Encourage native predators with a diverse garden habitat
  • Expect and accept a little bit of pest activity
  • If you must use a pesticide, choose one that is the least toxic to non-pest species, does not persist on vegetation, and apply it in the evening when most pollinators are not as active. Read and follow label directions carefully.

One easy way to control garden pests is with landscaping. Encourage predators to live in and around your garden.  Remember: all bugs aren't created equal. Some eat your plants, but others eat the bugs that eat your plants. Bird predators can be a mixed bag. We fight a constant battle with those winged consumers of figs, blackberries, blueberries, etc., but that is balanced by their insect consumption. Review this list of beneficial garden birds.

With this in mind, the National Wildlife Federation has a program to certify your garden for wildlife. This program is part of the NWF's million pollinator garden challenge.

Pollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 bites of food we take each day, and yet pollinators are at critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline. We know for certain, however, that more nectar and pollen sources provided by more flowering plants and trees will help improve their health and numbers. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.

The above photo is of the end-of-season garden bounty from a few years ago - all grown without the use of pesticides. In the past 4 days, I've harvested over 14 pounds of squash. How is your garden growing this year?



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