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Spring is Near….Time to Start Planning Your Garden


{Article written by Risto Kniivila}


With temperatures ready to climb, we all have thoughts of spring and the exhilarating feeling of everything coming alive. Now is the time to start preparing for spring’s arrival, making a plan of our existing garden or the new one we are going to plant. There are many factors that we should incorporate into the design. Let’s take a quick look into the different aspects we can plan for.

In planning, we want to look at which components go into our garden to make it appealing for pollinators to come and visit. The easy answer is flowers, but that is not all they need. Different pollinators have different needs. What they all have in common is the need for food, shelter, water, and elements in the garden that let them nest throughout our long winters.

Food

There are a variety of pollinators and they require different plants to attract them. Some, like butterflies, need a variety of food sources for each stage of their life. Preferring to lay their eggs on the plants that the larvae will eat. For example, the monarch lays one egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf, so when the egg hatches 3-5 days later it will have the food it needs to grow. Monarch females are capable of laying 300-500 eggs so that means quite a few plants are needed. To see the stately monarchs fluttering about is the reward, and the colour and movement they add to a garden brings that extra life that we all like to see.


For bees and other pollinators, flowers should be planted in dense clumps as bees are attracted to similar colours of flowers in which to forage for food. It is typically suggested to grow the plants in groupings that are 4 feet (about 1.2 m) in diameter as this will give a sufficient number of flowers while leaving room to plant others that may bloom at different times. Having flowers bloom throughout the growing season is ideal for both feeding pollinators and for the look of a flourishing natural garden.


Shelter, Water, and Other Elements

We have mentioned the milkweed leaves for the monarch eggs and larvae, but other shelters are needed to house pollinators. Most solitary bees need bare soil for underground nesting, while some others require a little bit of a messy area, places with hollow twigs, rotting logs, or dead trees to make their homes. One thing to consider is to try and avoid cloth ground cover or overly heavy mulch as around 70% of the bees do make their homes underground.


Water is essential for your plants and the pollinators we are trying to help. Planning ahead and having a small area where they can stay hydrated on those hot summer days will pay many rewards. Placing a small plate of a bird bath among the plants is a great way for bees, butterflies, and birds to have a drink and to splash around a little; refreshing themselves and allowing them to pollinate as much as possible. Leave small rocks or branches for the bees to stand on, and make sure to replace the water every few days to avoid nasty mosquito larvae from accumulating. Adding a piece of fruit to water occasionally will attract more butterflies as they like the sweet rotting taste.



Planting pollinator gardens requires planning to keep a variety of plants blooming as long as possible in the seasons, providing for the necessities that pollinators need to thrive, and to keep it all fun for you. Watching the bumblebees buzzing around, the butterflies fluttering plant to plant, and plants blooming as they do their part in making our planet a beautiful ecosystem is a well deserved reward for all that hard work.


But it doesn’t end once all of your spring plants are planted. Most of us will always plan on more to add for the next season. Watching the blooms blossom in the spring will make us crave more throughout the growing months and for the following spring. We might expand the garden a little by either size or content. But don’t forget to watch which plants attract the most pollinators and perhaps expand those areas, adding more for them to forage in. With all this information, you know what the pollinators need and how you can help. So start planning today!


Happy Gardening!


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