Pollinator Garden 101
There is a growing hype around pollinator gardens, but do you know what the term means and what it takes to grow a pollinator-friendly garden? In this blog post we have compiled some questions about the topic to encourage more gardeners to look after our pollinator friends.
Who are pollinators and why should I care about them?
Believe it or not, but bees, butterflies, bugs, bats, and even bears are pollinators! They help plants reproduce by carrying pollen from one flower to another. Plants have different flower structures, each being best suited for certain animals. Some plants, like dandelions, are pollinized by wind!
Pollinators are super important for our food system and the maintenance of healthy ecosystems. Due to pollution, urbanization, and destruction of their natural habitat, many pollinators (and pollinator-friendly plants) are at risk. To address this issue, the City of Toronto has a Pollinator Protection Strategy.
What are pollinator-friendly plants?
Also called 'pollinator plants', these are the plants who attract a wide variety of native pollinators. This happens because the species evolved together, developing structures that complement one another. And from this, important relationships of interdependence arise, such as pearly everlasting and the painted lady butterfly.
Why this emphasis on native plants and pollinators?
It is important to tend to native species to conserve them, since many are becoming rare in the wild. It also helps to increase local biodiversity as native plants provide habitat for many species of insects. Native plants are also adapted to the local climate, so they are water efficient and do not rely on chemicals.
For a list of plants native to Toronto, access this flyer created by the City of Toronto in partnership with environmental groups.
Does mulch affect pollinators?
Yes – mulch blocks animals' access to the soil, acting as a barrier that prevents insects such as bees from nesting in the ground. Your pollinator-friendly garden should have at least some bare patches of soil for ground nesting pollinators such as bees.
Should I be concerned with invasive plants?
Rather than concerned, stay informed – know how to identify invasive plants and how to deal with them. Invasive plants are non-native plants that pose as threats to the local ecosystem and their impact can be long lasting.
To learn about some of the most common invasive plant species in Ontario, access this resource created by the Ontario Invasive Plant Council. You can also read about native plants to replace invasive species in the Grow me Instead Guide.
Is it difficult to maintain a pollinator garden?
No - while there are some things you should be mindful of, especially as you begin your pollinator garden, overall, this kind of garden does not require a lot of maintenance. For example, since pollinator-friendly plants are native to an area, you water them less frequently as they are used to the local climate. Fallen leaves should preferably be left on the ground - they are beneficial for insects in the Wintertime.
You also save time, money, and benefit insects by not using pesticides or chemicals in your garden.
Where can I learn more about this?
City of Toronto – Wild About Bees: What you can do to help native pollinators
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority – Fact Sheets
Credit Valley Conservation – Native Plants for Pollinators
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