How to Attract Birds, Bees, and Butterflies to your Garden
More and more of us make an effort to put the planet first. Some times are easier than others but all are worthwhile. When it comes to earth-friendly gardens, attracting birds, bees, and butterflies can go a long way. Here are a few ideas to attract them to your garden:
Have a Plan
Create a balance of sunlight and shade. Grow plants that bloom at staggered times throughout the year. Choose flowers that bloom for long periods. Plant larger groups instead of single plants so that pollinators can forage using less energy. Vary plant heights to create shelter. Mix annuals, perennials, and edibles to provide diversity for pollinators. Consider planting specific caterpillar-friendly plants such as milkweed or parsley. Like any big project, gardens need a plan.
Find an Earth-Friendly Nursery
Friends of the Earth joined several other organizations in studying plant samples purchased at popular garden stores in the United States and Canada. Their study revealed that over half of the samples contained neonicotinoids, better known as insecticide. These chemically-treated plants, often labeled “protected,” are toxic to pollinators. Your best bet is to find a small nursery that specializes in pollinator-safe (or organic) gardens.
Choose Native Plants
There’s a temptation to choose beautifully exotic plants that will make our gardens stand out from the rest but in reality, it’s native gardens that are best for the planet. Local plants fill the needs of local pollinators and keep ecosystems thriving. Modern hybrids, on the other hand, are not always bred to maintain the pollen, nectar, or scent qualities that attract pollinators. While non-native pollinators may still frequent those plants, it’s native gardens that ensure everyone is welcome.
A combination of blooming annuals, perennials, and shrubs will ensure that nectar and pollen are available throughout the growing season. Nectar- and pollen-rich plants such as wildflowers make an attractive supply of food for pollinators. Dill, fennel, parsley, and milkweed, on the other hand, will keep caterpillars and butterfly larvae nearby. Hosting plants specifically for them will also prevent them from eating plants you’d prefer they don’t. Since birds love insects and seeds, consider leaving seed pods on plants or including thistle or echinacea and as a winter food source to keep birds close by.
Did you know butterflies are attracted to muddy puddles as a source of salts, nutrients, and water? Bird baths, ponds, water features, or even catch basins for rain are all great ways to provide water to birds and butterflies. Remember to provide a landing area above water level. Rocks will often do the job.
Birds, bees, and butterflies use shelter to stay safe from predators, escape bad weather, or raise their young. Artificial nesting boxes are one option but providing shelter can be as easy as letting a hedge grow wild for ground-nesting bees, letting a log decompose in a sunny place on the ground, leaving some leaves on the ground in autumn for birds to build their nests, or keeping a dead tree standing to provide nooks for butterflies and solitary bees.
Commit to Chemical-Free
If we redefine beauty as natural rather than controlled environments, we no longer need chemicals to control how they grow. By committing to chemical-free gardens, we force ourselves to learn how to control pests and diseases naturally and share the ecosystem that we and our gardens inhabit.
Once you appreciate that birds, bees, and butterflies bring life to our gardens, perfectly manicured lawns seem less desirable.