The wide use of harmful chemicals in the agricultural industry, such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, has contributed to a significant loss in the bee population. Mankind simply cannot survive without bees. So, if you are environmentally aware, like myself, you probably find this issue concerning and feel motivated to contribute to a solution. Well, the good news is you can. All you have to do is plant a pollen garden. Even apartment dwellers can have a pollen garden on a patio or balcony. So, if you want to help change the world, start with the bees!
Most of mankind’s plant-based food sources require pollination. Without the pollinating action of bees, there would be no fruit or seeds produced. Eventually there would be no apples or green beans or garlic. That is very bad news for humans. However, people are not the only ones dependent on the work of bees to provide their food supply. Black bears would no longer have blueberries. Birds would no longer have sunflower seeds. The survival of almost every living species upon Earth is dependent upon, not just the survival of bees, but thriving bee populations.
And bees are not the only pollinators. There are many types of flying insects that are attracted to the nectars within flowers, arrive to feed, collect pollen upon their legs and then carry that pollen to the next flower they visit for a drink. Butterflies, moths and hummingbirds do the same pollinating job that bees do.
Gardeners become a part of the critical pollination process. Although many garden for the sake of enjoying the fragrance and colors of flowers and others to enjoy fresh vegetables on their dining table, these gardeners are inadvertently contributing to making the world’s food supply more stable. By planting flowers and flowering vegetables and fruit plants, pleasure gardeners are making nectar sources available to their local pollinators thus helping the local population of pollinators stronger and healthier.
As a part of the pollinating process, consider the health of the visitors that will arrive to feed on your flowers. Go organic. Care for your garden and patio plants as meticulously as your prepare your dinner. You wouldn’t spray chemicals all over your dinner plate, would you? Of course not. So, forego toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Choose natural alternatives.
Rather than use a pesticide that kills insects, use a natural product that repels them. Leave the insects alive for they are also a food source for local bird, reptile and amphibious populations. Bluejays, geckoes and frogs all need to eat, too!
As for herbicides, the best way to avoid unwanted plants growing in your garden is to spend time in your garden. When using a hoe or cultivator to eliminate weeds, you also help to circulate oxygen into the soil. This enriches root systems. So, gently eliminate weeds in this manner and get a work out while you’re at it as well as a good dose of vitamin D during your outdoor activity.
As for fertilizer, the best organic option is compost. Even apartment dwellers can create a compost alternative. Use a large, covered container to collect vegetable clippings, tea bags, eggshells, old bread and other organic matter. When you are ready to water the garden, use the organic matter to brew “compost tea” on your stovetop. Add one cupful of tea to every gallon of water. It’s safe, repurposed, organic and nutritious for your plants.
And, as you cultivate a pollen garden, here are some ideas for plants that are loved and adored by pollinators:
- Herbs – Oregano, sage
- Milkweed – Attracts the Monarch caterpillar. The Monarch butterfly species needs all the help it can get.
- Wildflowers – Beardtongue and Hummingbird Mint are favorites of hummingbirds; Beebalm, purple coneflower (also known as Echinacea and a favorite among naturalists as an immune system strengthener)
- Flowers – Evening primrose, ornamental onions (also called allium)
These are just a few suggestions. Visit your local nursery and the professionals can assist in recommending which plants are favorites for pollinating populations and will also thrive in your local climate.