Most gardeners know that encouraging pollinators is good for their growing plants, but not everyone knows that increased diversity of pollinators can mean more vegetables to harvest.
One of the best ways to ensure that your garden thrives every year is by taking the time to plan before you plant.
While deciding which varieties of peppers to grow is an important choice, choosing which plants to encourage native pollinators can be just as vital to creating a flourishing garden.
Factors to Consider
Seasonality–When deciding what to plant to nurture native pollinators in your garden, considering when various plants will bloom is of the utmost importance. Bees and other native pollinators need sources of nectar and/or pollen during the time that they are foraging and creating nests. To provide these sources of fuel, be sure to select plants that will bloom throughout the growing season.
Gateway Greening’s Strategy: In our Demonstration Garden, there is a wide variety of native flowers. When first planted, these plants were designed to bloom throughout the growing season, but more aggressive fall flowering plants have crowded out the spring flowering. Luckily, there are other parts of the Demonstration Garden that have only spring flowering
plants, ensuring that pollinators always have resources to utilize.
Plant Placement–To maximize the benefit that native plants offer in your garden, placement can be an important consideration. When plants are grouped in large patches, instead of being by themselves, they can offer more resources to pollinators.
Bordering your edible plants with native flowering plants can also improve pollination of your edible plants as well as provide pollinators with even more resources to thrive, leading to more vegetables being produced.
Gateway Greening’s Strategy: In both the native pollinator area and wildlife garden in the Demonstration Garden, native plants are grouped in large patches. Gateway Greening tries to plant native plants directly into the ground in order to save space in raised beds, especially since native plants thrive in Missouri’s clay-filled soil. Otherwise unused space is also used strategically in other parts of the garden such as the small area next to the roadside fence, where ornamental plantings bloom throughout the season.
Plant Varieties to Consider
Native Yarrow–Though some consider it to be a weed, yarrow is a native, flowering perennial that attracts butterflies with its white flowers and long bloom time.
Anise Hyssop–This herbaceous perennial is attractive to a variety of native pollinators. Its fragrant, purple blossoms stick around from June to September, making it a beautiful and edible addition to any garden.
Chives–Another edible that attracts native pollinators, chives bloom in the late spring and early summer to ensure that pollinators stick around all season.
Garlic Chives–Though similar to chives, garlic chives bloom in the late summer and early fall, which can be a time when other plants are not flowering.
Aster–In addition to having large, purple flowers, aster is notable for its late bloom time, which stretches into October.
Witch Hazel–Though you might know it from the first aid aisle, witch hazel is unique for both its interesting blooms and very early bloom time, which can begin as early as January.
Native Passionflower (Maypop)–Related to the tropical passion fruit, this unusual flower has a long bloom time and is much loved by bumblebees.
Other great choices to encourage native pollinators in your garden include perennial edibles that flower such as selvatica, oregano, thyme, chives, garlic chives, lemon balm, and mint.
Gateway Greening’s Strategy: Last year, garlic chives, chives, and thyme were planted at the ends of raised beds that contained vegetables. These pollinator attracting perennials are edible and flower beautifully.
Though many of these native plants make St. Louis gardens more efficient, they also can add beauty to their surroundings. Many of them produce gorgeous, colorful blooms that can
light up a neighborhood.
To see all the strategies that Gateway Greening utilizes to encourage pollinators, come take a tour of the Demonstration Garden on Saturday, March 17, 10am – 11am or just stop by at 3841 Bell Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays. Check out even more opportunities to visit the space here.
For more information on which native plants thrive in Missouri, check out these resources!