Alternative Pollinators with Author and Radio Host Jessica Walliser
Most of us probably do not associate our medicine, food or clothing with bees, but bees, insects, and even small animals do the important work of pollinating plants. Author and horticulturist, Jessica Walliser explains why attracting and caring for pollinators in your garden is so important. “There would be no cotton or linen without pollination. More importantly, ninety percent of all flowering plants depend on a pollinator to flower and then create fruit. So if there is no pollination, there is no harvest.” In recent years, pollinators have been adversely affected by a reduction in habitat, new pests and the overuse of pesticides. So what can we do? Jessica tells us that we can do our part to encourage and protect pollinators on an acre or a window box, simply by adopting some pollinator-friendly practices.
Create Habitat There are more than 3500 species of solitary bees in North America, these efficient pollinators do most of the pollinating of crops and gardens. The decline in the European honeybee hives has made it even more important to protect and encourage our native bees. Adding a native bee house to your garden is a great start. You may also want to consider delaying your garden clean-up until the spring. Leaving dried plant stalks and material (unless diseased) in the garden through the winter, provides habitat for pollinators who nest in hollow stems, woodpecker holes, and insect holes found in dead plants and wood.
Provide Food Sources and Water Provide water and food sources for pollinators, add a shallow birdbath, make a mudpuddle with your hose, or fill a small saucer with water and leave it in your garden. Try to include flowers with umbel or shallow flowers in your garden beds. Most garden pollinators do not have specialized parts that allow them to reach pollen and nectar so it has to be easily accessible for them to do their part. Among the flowers that seem to draw all kinds of insect pollinators are; goldenrods, dill, coneflowers, sunflowers, joe-pye weed, zinnias, and marigolds. Place your bee, butterfly or birdhouse near these food sources. You may also want to try recycling your over-ripe fruit and leave it mashed or cut-up outside for butterflies, like the Swallowtails, Painted Ladies and Fritillaries to feed on.
Eliminate Hazards When we use chemicals to rid the garden of pests, we may also be eradicating beneficial insects and animals. This often creates an imbalance that affects the overall health of the garden. Take a minute to find out what is truly attacking your plants or causing a problem before you spray or powder something. The best option is to eliminate all pesticides practice, but if elimination is not an option, read labels carefully, select the least toxic, and apply it after dusk when most pollinators are no longer active.
With a little bit of effort you can invite pollinators into your garden and enjoy “the fruits” of their labor!
Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. She is a contributing editor for Organic Gardening magazine where you can read her ‘Good Bug, Bad Bug’ feature in each issue. Her column ‘The Good Earth’ appears weekly in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and she is a regular contributor to Urban Farm, Popular Farming, Hobby Farms and Hobby Farm Home magazines, http://www.jessicawalliser.com.