Tips to Create a Pollinator-Friendly Garden
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- Plant native: Choose native plants, trees and shrubs rich in pollen and nectar. Locally grown and pesticide free are best.
- Provide continuous bloom: Pollinators need a continuous source of pollen and nectar so select a variety of plants that will bloom from spring to fall.
- Mass plantings: Planting multiples of the same plant together in large groupings makes it easier for pollinators to find and collect pollen.
- Plant single bloom varieties: The petals of double or triple bloom varieties can block access to pollen and nectar.
- Prune and deadhead: Remove dead flower heads to encourage new growth and a longer flowering season.
- Plant host plants: Butterflies lay their eggs on specific plants. Monarch butterflies, for example, will only lay their eggs on milkweed, the sole food source for their larva.
- Bare ground: Many native bees build nests in soil, so leave some bare patches and limit your use of mulch.
- Provide water: A bird bath or shallow dish of water with half submerged rocks will help bees and butterflies quench their thirst.
- Provide sun: Butterflies like to bask in the sun, so place a few flat rocks in sunny, sheltered locations.
- Leave dead stems: Some bees hibernate and lay eggs in hollow stems. If you do cut, leave the bottom 8 inches in place and bundle the cut stems and place them in your garden. Bundles of sticks and stems that are put out for yard waste collection too early in spring will often contain overwintering bees.
- Keep your dead wood: Large branches and decaying logs can be kept in a sunny spot to provide much needed overwintering habitat for bees and other wildlife.
- Minimize manicuring: A perfectly manicured lawn is a food desert for pollinators. Natural gardens and lawns offer the most benefits for pollinators in terms of food and nesting spots.
- Reduce mowing: To avoid disturbing ground nesting bees, mow your lawn less often and set the blade at the highest level possible.
- Leave the leaves: Leave the leaves where they fall or rake them into your garden to provide overwintering habitat for butterflies.
- Avoid tilling: Keep large patches of land unmown and untilled to provide secure and undisturbed nesting sites for ground nesting bees.
- Keep it natural: Converting a lawn or garden to concrete, gravel, mulch or artificial turf reduces valuable food and nesting sites.
- Prevent the spread of invasive plants: Monitor your property for invasive plants and remove them when detected. The invasive dog-strangling vine has a negative impact on Monarchs – female butterflies mistakenly lay their eggs on it since it’s in the milkweed family, instead of native milkweeds, causing their larvae to starve.
- Avoid pesticides: Avoid plants/seeds treated with systemic insecticides, such as neonicotinoids. And don’t spray pesticides. Toronto’s Pesticide Bylaw bans the cosmetic use of pesticides.