Planting for pollinators

We have been talking a lot about fruit trees on recent GardenLine shows, and the need for certain pollinators has come up. So, I thought it would be a good idea to share what a local expert calls “The Pollinator List.” 

 Angela Chandler of The Garden Academy  teaches classes on what she calls “an essential partnership.”

Pollinators are our partners in vegetable and fruit production, and they are also responsible for many of the seeds we grow. We have displaced a lot of their natural habitat, and the impact is being felt worldwide. But gardeners can come to their rescue, and we can begin today. It’s a worthy resolution to begin the new year.  So, read Angela’s great advice below, and save the list of important pollinator plants.

Food for pollinators includes both pollen and nectar. Pollen provides protein, and nectar provides carbohydrates. Many pollinators need both, although it varies by species and may differ depending on their stage of life. 

Native plants should be at the top of our list. Indigenous pollinators evolved with our native plants, and the relationship is often symbiotic. Thankfully, Texas abounds in native plants that are so beautiful that they are welcome in the tidiest ornamental garden. 

 Next are the long-adapted plants – those that have been brought here over many generations by immigrants of every culture for food, fiber, dyes, medicine, heritage and sentiment. We know many of them as “pass-along” plants, and many have become so well-adapted that we can hardly tell them from the true natives.

The third group of plants might be a little unexpected. They are the least expensive and the easiest to find and plant – vegetables and herbs. The flowers of mustards, radishes, cilantro, and Asian greens are irresistible to pollinators. Allowing a portion of our veggie garden to bolt and flower will benefit them greatly.

 You can easily provide water for pollinators, too. Some insects will find all the water they need in the dew that falls on plants. Others, like bees and wasps, require fresh open water, and a lot of it. The easiest way to provide water for insects is in a shallow dish. You can use a bird bath, plant drain saucer, pie plate, or pretty much anything that is shallow and will hold water. Partially fill the dish with gravel or sand. Place a few large rocks in the dish so insects can rest and drink without drowning. Fill the dish until there is a shallow level of water over the top of the sand or gravel – 1/8” to ¼” or so. This replicates a mud puddle, which is where many insects seek water in nature. Since they are also seeking minerals from damp mud, you can add a couple of pinches of rock minerals or red salt to the sand or gravel to provide them in a natural way. Don’t overdo this, it just takes a bit. If you have recently added minerals to a bed in the garden, just add a scoop of your soil to the dish.

Pollinator Plants

PHOTOS: Getty Images
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