PREPPING YOUR POLLINATOR GARDEN
With the weather warming up, we are all itching to get outside! Now is a perfect time to think about how you can change up your yard this spring. Whether you have an acreage or a small yard in town, there are simple things that can be done to help wildlife, specifically pollinators.
Think about what you will plant- consider native flowers for your beds. Native plants are great for local pollinators and will be less hassle for you in the long run. Since these plants are used to Iowa climate, they tend to be hardier and will thrive. For the lazy gardener, native perennials are wonderful because you plant them and forget them! This is the category I fall under and I have no shame. Planting herbs is also a great idea. Many pest bugs such as mosquitos and gnats don’t like the strong smell of mint, lavender and all the other aromatic herbs that smell wonderful to us. You can also cut back and use all of the herbs to cook or freshen up your house.
Leave leaf litter on top of garden beds until the soil warms up to about 50 degrees or more. Although you can’t see them, there are beneficial bugs and other critters that are using your flower beds as a hibernation spot. Luna moth cocoons are hidden under the leaf litter for protection and warmth until they can emerge. Same goes with native bees, toads, frogs, salamanders and so many more animals that are important to the health of your garden ecosystem. Myself as a lazy gardener, leaves the leaf litter and puts fresh mulch right on top. This will fertilize my flower beds for free and saves me a lot of time. If you do want to rake up the ‘mess’, hold on a little longer for our hibernating friends.
If you are thinking of putting in a garden or flower bed- now is a good time to prep your space. You can buy expensive engineering fabric that is supposed to prevent weeds from popping up or you can try these cheap and biodegradable options instead. Lay down cardboard or newspaper where you would like to be weed free. The newspaper will block out the sun so nothing can come up and grow, and will be completely gone and incorporated into the soil by the following year! I also think it’s easier to plant flowers around the newspaper than the store bought stuff.
Something that is fun and can get kids working outside with you, is making homes for pollinators and our mosquito eating friends. You can buy bee houses/pollinator houses or you can make them yourselves. There are many tutorials but it can be as simple as getting a piece of unused wood and drilling various sized holes a couple inches deep. The native bees will use this as their home! You know you have bees if some of the holes are mudded over. Watering stations are also important to have. I get a pretty shallow dish- the bottom dish of a flower pot works great. Decorate with colored pebbles and stones and bring on the butterflies looking for a drink! I can’t tell you how many toads and frogs I have found enjoying the garden pool as well.
Having a garden or pollinator flower bed does not have to be hard or expensive. It is a super simple way for people of all ages and regardless of where you live to get involved in nature. Even one potted plant on a deck is better than nothing. Oftentimes we think if we aren’t doing these elaborate things that we can’t help out mother nature but it’s quite the opposite.