Planting for Pollinators

Pollinators support plant growth and make your garden more fruitful than without them. When they stop by your garden, they take nutrient rich pollen to help neighbouring areas. You may have heard dystopian worries of a future world without bees, but it’s easier to avoid this than you think! You can help keep bee populations healthy by planting gardens to encourage pollinators.

Types of Pollinators

Pollinators are different all over the world. In Ireland, bees and flies do pollinate, but bats, birds, or even bugs called midges help as well! You might notice flying species labeled as pollinators, but they are not the only ones! Every time an animal brushes up against flowers and walks through other plants, they catch pollen on them. Our natural ecosystem relies on attracting pollinators.

How to Choose Your Plants

Depending on your own garden, choose plants that will thrive in that space. Certain trees grow better with a lot of areas to grow and soak up sunlight, whereas others will prefer a bit of shade.
 
Do plant native, non-invasive, plant species.
 
Do Not plant invasive species
 
An invasive species is one introduced to the environment that would not have grown there. Problematically, without natural predators, they have a negative effect on native plants. A healthy ecosystem has checks and balances to keep plants from overtaking each other. As they are not natural to the ecosystem, invasive species alter this balance. If this happens, the environment becomes a monoculture system and prevents biodiversity.

Open-Space Trees

  • Apple
  • Wild Cherry
  • Rowan

Hedgerow Species

  • Hazel
  • Whitethorn
  • Spindle
  • Wild Rose

Herbaceous Planting

When planting in soil, remember to first test to ensure you have the proper nutrients to support the native species you wish to grow. Be careful planting summer bedding as many are not suitable for pollinators. They either have no pollen, or the nectar is inaccessible. An example of this is double flowers. The solution would be to not use these plants at all, or to place pollen-rich plants with them.

Autumn Perennials

  • Wild Thyme
  • Giant Hyssop ‘Black Adder’
  • Argentinian Vervain

Spring Perennials

  • Wallflower “Bowles Mauve”
  • Foxglove
  • Common Valerian

Summer Perennials

  • Lavender ‘Hidcote’
  • Helenium or Sneazeweed
  • Borage

Avoiding Pesticides/Herbicides

One of the goals of planting for pollinators is supporting natural growth. Thus, it is unnecessary to use pesticides and herbicides to kill weeds. What you might have seen as a nuisance weed in your manicured lawn now has a purpose! Weeds help spread pollen and support your garden’s biodiversity. Additionally, pulling out invasive plants is better for your garden than spraying them.
 
Pesticides and herbicides do more harm than good. It is the natural cycle of gardening for some bugs to eat your plants. A healthy garden can survive caterpillars and spiders munching on a few leaves. The problem with spraying pesticides is they hurt the pollinators alongside the pests. Additionally, herbicides harm the native plants as they kill everything but their intended grass or flowers.

Planning Pollinator Habitats

Do plant a block of each species.
 
Do Not limit your garden to single plants.
 
It is especially important when you plan out your garden to leave space for multiples of each plant. This encourages sustainability throughout the season.
 
If you are planting in a small space, here are some tips on what plants are suitable for small space growing. Remember, your garden will be healthier if you have more than one of each plant species. It is better to have a small garden with only a couple varieties of plant, than it is to have many single plants!
 
If you do not have a garden, pots and vertical growth can still attract pollinators. There are many DIY ideas for creating vertical gardens, so you can still create a flowery space.
 
To encourage bees to move in, you should also create habitats within your garden to support them. Some bees are solitary, preferring patches of bare ground or slopes of soil, sand, or peat to bore into. Others prefer to live in nesting boxes, which are an easy addition to your garden.
 
One benefit of supporting solitary bees as pollinators is that they are hard workers. Studies have shown that a single mason bee in an apple orchard can do the work of hundreds of honeybees.

Sit Back and Watch

Once you have planted your pollen-rich garden, sit back and watch the wildlife come visit. There is no better sign of spring than sunny days filled with buzzing and chirping. Planting pollinator-friendly plants benefit your local environment and give you a space to enjoy your space!
 
To learn more about planting for pollinators, join the GLAS Community Garden in Ballymun from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday!