Pollinators are critical to the food system. They provide one out of every three bites of food we take. Over the past several decades all types of pollinators and other insects have experienced massive declines. During National Pollinator Month this June, everyone can take steps to promote pollinators. One key way is by installing a pollinator habitat. Here are our top tips to do this in your backyard.
How to install a pollinator habitat:
Find a location that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day. Then decide what plants you want to add to this space. Ideally, if you have space choose 3 different plants to bloom for each season (spring, summer, fall). Note, if you plan to direct seed, many native flowers are best sowed in early fall. They prefer cold and damp temperatures to germinate.
Prepare your garden space. Get this area in good shape by turning over soil and adding some compost. Use a natural mulch to suppress future weeds.
Choose a mix of native flowers and grasses. When designing your pollinator habitat, think about maximizing diversity and including not only flowers that are a critical food source for pollinators, but forbs and grasses too. They can serve as an overwintering habitat for pollinators. If you are unsure of what to plant go to your local nursery. They can help you decide what will work best for your space. If you plan to use transplants make sure to ask for "bee-friendly plants" that have not been sprayed with any chemicals.
Monitor your pollinator habitat area. It might take a full season to get plants established, but once things start blooming take note of what pollinators you see in this habitat. Is there something blooming most of the season? Is there a mix of pollinators visiting flowers? Once you have made these observations make adjustments and add other plants into the area as needed.
Learn more about pollinator habitats:
Bluegrass Greensource Pollinator Gardens:
KY Pollinator Protection Plan:
National Association of Conservation District:
Woody Ornamentals for Bee-Friendly Landscapes (Ohio Valley Region)
Pollinator-Friendly Native Plant Lists:
"Plant By Number" Pollinator Gardens: