Helping pollinators

Gardeners celebrate Earth Day each and every day. In particular, we do our best to provide food for our pollinators. We are all thinking about them but there are a few ways that you can help pollinators that you might not have thought of. We have to remember that there are more than just honey bees that pollinate our flowers and our food. There are many different kinds of bees, other insects such as butterflies and even bats. There are many ways to provide food other than flowers in our gardens. There are also our lawns.

According to Julie Weisenhorn, there is a bill in Minnesota legislation called “Lawns to Legumes Bill.” This bill would help pay for up to “75 percent of the costs to convert lawns to pollinator friendly or bee lawns.” While many of us envision a lawn that is perfect, even “golf course” quality, researchers are finding that this is not necessarily the best use of that type of space. You can even save money and time because mowing would be virtually non-existent! The lawns will be beautiful with purple, white and yellow flowers that are growing there. It will be a low growing, low maintenance type of lawn. For more information regarding a “bee lawn,” go to https://blog-yard-garden-news.extension.umn.edu/2019/04/mn-lawmakers-buzzing-about-incentives.html . It might be time to take a new look at our lawns!

Bats are another pollinator that needs a second look. This is because our bat population is declining not only in other parts of the state but in our own area as well. If you know of a bat colony, leave it alone. It is best if you find a bat to leave it alone or call the local DNR officer to assist you. Bats are important because they can eat their weight in insects every day if they are feeding their young. Where I live, we have at least four to six bats hanging around our farm. They appear at dusk about now through the first colder nights in the fall. Bats also can pollinate plants and enjoy such plants as Datura, evening primrose, four o’clock, moonflower,  Nicotiana, mock orange, evening stock, and oriental lilies. According to the information given also by Weisenhorn, bats use flowers for looking for additional insects. They eat the insects we don’t like! For more information on gardening with bats, go to https://blog-yard-garden-news.extension.umn.edu/2019/04/april-17th-bat-appreciation-day-grow.html. And no, bats do not get caught in long hair. They are more mobile than that!

As you start to plan your flower gardens this spring, there are a few plants that we can use in our gardens to provide proven food for our pollinators. These flowers have been tested across Minnesota as to the most attractive flowers to our pollinators. As someone pointed out to me, if you want to avoid pollinators because you have someone who is allergic to bee stings and so forth, these are probably the ones to stay away from. Agastache Heather Queen, Helenium “Dakota Gold,” Helianthus “Dwarf Yellow Spray” and “Lemon Queen” are good choices. Tagetes (Marigold) “Bambino,” Melampodium “Showstar” are also good choices. The 4-H families in Lyon and Lincoln counties particularly liked the look of “Showstar” as well. There are several Rudbeckia species including: “Irish Eyes,” “Orange Fudge” and “Prairie Sun.” There were also a group of Salvia plants that had particular attraction for bumblebees and hummingbirds. These are: “Coral Nymph,” “Summer Jewel Pink” and “White Swan.” Two varieties of Zinnia: “Envy” and “Pop Art Red and White.” The “Pop Art” variety was particularly good for attracting butterflies. There are four varieties of Cosmos that are attractive to pollinators. These include: “Double Take,” “Capriola,” “Double Click” and “Daydream.”

There will be more varieties as the information comes out from the 2018 study. I will share that information with you when it becomes available. For more information about gardening, or to become a Master Gardener, please contact me at s.dejaeghere@me.com

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