Butterflies, bees, and birds are beautiful and varied. In addition, they — and other insects — are responsible for pollinating our farms and gardens. Our food supply depends on them. But these essential workers are under attack from our use of pesticides, herbicides, and other human activities. You can provide crucial support for local pollinators by planting a pollinator garden.
The population of pollinators, including butterflies, bees, and birds, has declined over the years. Research shows that the biomass of flying insects reduced by 76% in the last three decades. Help support the insects and birds that pollinate our flowers and food. By picking plants that produce pollen and nectar, and avoiding harmful garden chemicals, you’ll attract and feed pollinating insects and birds. A recent study found that 85% of nectar produced in urban areas comes from gardens.
Here’s a quick guide to planting a pollinator garden based on the area where in the U.S. you live.
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Most of the U.S.: Summer Pollinator Garden
You can plant a summer pollinator garden in most parts of the U.S. — mainly in the Midwest, Northeast, and Northwest — using the seeds recommended below. Setting up a pollinator garden is easy, and you can do it on your own by following these steps.
First, select plants that are most likely to grow well in your region. The USDA Hardiness Zone map divides the U.S. into several zones based on temperature. Each zone is 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer or colder than the succeeding or preceding area. Selecting the plants based on your zone will increase the chances that your garden will thrive.
Plants: We recommend the Summer Pollinator Garden Pack from NatureHills, a 12-pack of plants that work well in most of the U.S. You’ll get three each of Sweet Black-Eyed Susan, Purple Coneflower, Mountain Mint, and Smooth Blue Aster. The pack is suited for the 3-7 growing zones, which include the entire U.S. apart from the West Coast, Southeast, and Texas.
Natural fertilizers: The Organic Rose & Flower Fertilizer Mix by Down to Earth is a natural, organic, and recyclable fertilizer mix that you can use to enhance the growth of your summer pollinator garden. We discourage the use of artificial plant foods, fertilizers, and pesticides.
Once you have selected the native plants to help pollinators in your region, follow these tips to turn your yard into a pollinator paradise.
- Plant flowers with a range of sizes, shapes, and colors.
- Avoid planting modern hybrids as they cannot produce nectar.
- Plant in drifts, which imitate natural areas by creating colonies of a single plant variety. This increases the visibility of the plants to the pollinators.
- Avoid landscape mulch and fabric.
- Leave dead wood for nesting.
Deep South Wildflower Garden
If you live in warmer regions, such as the southern part of the U.S. — including the Southwest Coast, Texas, and Southeast — it’s best to plant a different collection of wildflowers in your pollinator garden.
Getting the timing right is one of the essential tips for starting a wildflower garden from scratch. In areas with intense summertime heat, plant your wildflowers in early spring. This will allow wildflowers to grow without getting affected by excessive heat and bloom before peak summer arrives.
Plants: Bluebell, Foxglove, Comfrey, Clover, Greater Knapweed, and Hellebore are some of the best wildflowers to attract bees in your garden. The SeedGro Texas/Oklahoma Wildflower Blend includes seeds for more than 20 varieties of wildflowers native or adapted to the hot and dry Texas/Oklahoma region. You can plant the blend anytime but it’s best to plant them in spring so that they can produce flowers by summer.
Natural fertilizer: Numerous organic and natural fertilizers are available that you can use to make your wildflower garden thrive. If you don’t have a backyard and plan to plant a window wildflower garden, check out the 2-pound box of Down to Earth Organic Bat Guano Fertilizer.
Once you’ve selected the native wildflowers for your garden, follow these steps to set your garden up for success.
- Choose a site and prepare the soil for seeding.
- Scatter the wildflower seeds; be sure to follow to coverage rate and directions on the packaging.
- Compress the seeds into the soil using a seed roller.
- Water your garden; make sure the solid is moist, not soaking wet.
Now, you can sit back and enjoy watching your wildflowers grow.
If you like to listen to bird songs in your backyard, plant a bird-friendly pollinator garden. Although bird feeders are an excellent way to invite birds to your place, they’re frequently raided by squirrels. Instead, consider planting a bird garden, which will act as a natural, healthy, and year-round source of food for birds.
Pacific Coast Bee Garden
Bees are beneficial to the environment and ecosystem. Local bees pollinate native plants, many of which can’t be pollinated by introduced bees. Planting a bee garden can support the local bee population, and it’s easy to set up.
Plants: The first step towards setting up a bee garden is to select native flowers. It’s best to find flowers that bloom year-round and not just during spring or summer. Check out the SeedsNow Save The Bees Garden Variety Pack. It includes seeds for 15 popular varieties of flowering plants that attract bees.
Natural fertilizers: Natural fertilizers are widely available; you can easily ditch chemical-based fertilizers. Use the 25-pound Down to Earth Organic Bat Guano Fertilizer to supplement the garden bed when preparing the soil for your flower seeds. If you keep a window garden, choose the 2-pound Down to Earth Organic Bat Guano Fertilizer.
Lastly, don’t purchase plants treated with neonicotinoids (neonics). While they may accelerate the growth of your bee garden, they’re known to kill bees. Go for natural alternatives that allow you to create a safe and inviting environment for the bees.
Enjoy Your Garden
The continuing decline of the pollinator population is a major environmental threat — with dire consequences for our food supply. We recommend joining petitions calling for an end to the use of neonicotinoids. As humans, we have the responsibility to make sure butterflies, bees, birds, and other pollinators survive, and we can help by planting pollinator gardens.
These gardens give native insects and birds a home where they can stay and feed all season. You’ll enjoy the beauty and help your local ecosystem increase its resilience.