Supporting the pollinators

It is usually about this time of the year that I am writing about keeping up watering in our gardens and landscapes because we normally are quite dry at this time of the year. I would say that at this point in time, we can start looking forward to putting the hoses away. The generous rains from Mother Nature will keep us for quite some time. So, now we can start looking forward to other tasks in the garden such as clean up. As I was writing last week, there has been more information coming from the Extension about pollinators and there are a few more things that we can do to help them out.

A good example is that when you are cleaning up your perennial gardens, it may be a good thing to leave some of the trash and debris in your garden along with some of the stems from your perennial flowers. There are certain insects (bumblebees) that make their nests in the trash on the floor of your gardens for the duration of their lives. And, there are some bees who will lay their babies to be (bee?) inside the stalks of perennials that are hollow inside. So, if you get busy and don’t have the time to clean up the garden like you would like to do, then you are probably giving another home to a pollinator for the winter. I have taken to mowing off my perennial gardens, in order to prepare them for next spring, but this is something that I may be taking a different approach to this fall. After I have mowed off the perennial gardens, the mower is put away for the winter.

Another way to support our pollinators is to plant spring flowering bulbs around your yard. Bulbs are easy to plant and if you are not sure which way is up, just plant the bulb on its side. There are early flowering bulbs such as glory of snow, crocus, snowdrops and hyacinths. There are midseason flowering plants such as daffodils and Fritillaria and there are late season bulbs such as allium and squill. Of course, you can plant early, mid and late season tulips as well. Of these, the ones I like the most are crocus and alliums. There are more and more different types of alliums that are for the home gardener and offer a greater variety then just a few years ago.

There are a few gardeners who struggle with bulbs. I, too, have this problem from time to time. The most particular problem is plant them one year and they flower wonderfully, and then the following year, you won’t see them again. There are a few reasons for this happening. The bulbs were planted too shallow, too late in the season or were not hardy for this region. The bulbs were disturbed by animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, or mice. The bulbs rotted. Bulb rots are usually caused by using fertilizers excessively high in nitrogen or fresh manure, wet soil conditions, or by poor quality, bruised or cut bulbs. If bulbs flowered the first year but not the second, it is quite possible the area is too shady or the foliage may have been removed before it had yellowed and withered naturally. When cutting flowers for indoor use, leave as much foliage behind as possible. The biggest challenge for us to find a good reliable source of bulbs. Purchasing bulbs locally is the first step in finding the right bulbs for your garden and to help our pollinator insects that we all rely on so heavily.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at