How to design your garden to support pollinators

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Published: April 28, 2021

Gardening can be a rewarding activity at home and at the cottage, but knowing how to start can be intimidating. 

Whether you’re an experienced gardener, or you’re trying your hand at it for the first time, we have a few tips to make sure that your thumbs are tinted green. 

Pollinators 

If you’re looking to design a garden, it’s important to make sure that it supports pollinators. 

Pollinators are insects and animals that collect nectar from flowers and spread its pollen to other plants. 

If you’ve heard about the importance of bees to our ecosystem, that’s because many of the fruits and vegetables we consume are produced thanks to the pollen spread by bees. The pollen allows for the production of new seeds and new flowers. They really are the bee’s knees. 

Designing your garden with this in mind increases the chances of your garden producing healthy plants, but also supports the larger ecosystem. A healthy environment depends on pollination, and pollinators such as butterflies and bees rely on a garden that is designed to support their needs. 

Certain plant species native to the Ontario region are the only food source for butterflies, moths, and other creatures. Without those plants, they’ll disappear. 

Location 

Consider the location of your garden carefully. 

If you’re at the cottage, choose a spot that gets sunlight for most of the day. Butterflies prefer to spend their time in the sunlight, and pollinators that prefer shade will use the underside of the flowers to get out of the sun. 

Be sure to consider the type of soil, moisture level, and the surrounding plants. For example, if your ground is littered with pine needles, many plants won’t be able to grow. If you’re planting black-eyed susans, they can’t be planted in the shade. No matter how well you take care of them, the lack of sunlight will cause them to wilt, or simply not grow. 

Knowing your area is the key to success. Survey your property, take a soil sample, and consider the seeds you’ll be planting.

If this is your first garden, consider using a container such as a pot to make things simpler. You can separate flowers by their care needs, and test different species to see how they grow. 

Selecting your plants 

This is possibly the most important factor: use native plants. 

While you can certainly grow flowers and plants that aren’t native to the area, this approach can have a negative impact on the surrounding environment. 

Native plants are plants that were around before European colonization. These North American flowers support local pollinators, they’re naturally drought resistant, and they’re less prone to pests. If you don’t like using chemicals such as pesticides, then you’ll love native flowers. 

Just remember, not all wildflowers are native to Ontario. 

Consider Wild Bergamot, Great Blue Lobelia, Dense Blazingstar, and Common Milkweed as options for your garden. These flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. You’re giving your garden wings. 

Planting your seeds 

Native flowers will thrive, even when planted with non-native species such as vegetables. 

Plant the flowers in groups of at least four. This will create beautiful sweeping colours in your garden, and help pollinators to recognize the flowers they’re looking for. If you’re attracting pollinators, you’ll be producing even more flowers in the future. 

Pinch off any dry or dead blooms. Fresh flowers produce the most pollen and nectar for insects and animals to feed on. Removing these dry blooms will allow new flowers to bloom in their place. 

And to fully support pollinators, it’s best to plant spring, summer, and fall blooming plants. This will provide pollinators with a continual source of nectar throughout the year, and give you beautiful flowers to enjoy year round. 

Consult the experts 

These are just a few tips to get your garden started. If you’re unsure of which flowers would be right for your environment, consider Northern Wildflowers. 

Northern Wildflowers is a family-owned business based in Northern Ontario that supplies native wildflower seed to gardeners and restoration practitioners across Canada. Seed is grown using ecological practices or sustainably wild-collected.

Their seed is pollinator friendly, non-GMO, untreated, and chemical free. For more information, check out northernwildflowers.ca