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The Ultimate Companion Planting Guide Part 2: Pollinators

5 min read 5 Comments

The Ultimate Companion Planting Guide Part 2: Pollinators

As a home gardener, you already know that gardening positively promotes what you eat, how you spend your time and the way you interact with the landscape. But do you also know how the seeds you select can help increase pollinator populations?

Insects—including butterflies, bees, moths, and beetles—are the most prevalent pollinators we see flitting from flower to flower. At each stop a pollinator makes, pollen is transferred from bloom to bloom in a continuous cycle that is absolutely essential to all flowering plants.Vertebrates such as hummingbirds and bats also play an important role in this delicate balance of biodiversity. For migratory pollinators especially (like our personal favorite, the monarch butterfly) the ability to find food on their route is vital to the success of the entire population. The Ultimate Companion Planting Guide Part 2: Pollinators

Scientists estimate that seventy-five percent of all crops used in agriculture are dependent on pollinators—a huge responsibility for our little flying friends! And as home gardeners, we can help keep this vital cycle going.

Whether you have converted a small space into a container garden or are in the process of grooming your grounds to maximize production, Pinetree Garden Seeds can help you take small steps to transform your current landscape into the perfect pollinator paradise. 

Wondering where to start? Even a small change can make a big difference! Below are just a few themes we keep top-of-mind when looking at gardens through a pollinator’s eyes.

Less Lawn, More Faun(a)

Make space in your yard for nectar-producing plants—even if it means giving up a little lawn to do so. Plant a variety of species in dense clusters to lock in moisture, reduce weeds, and make the flowers easy for pollinators to locate.

Some of our favorite flowers to mass together in close proximity are:

Remember!

The more diverse your selection of seeds, the healthier your population of pollinators will be. Hesitant about cutting grass to cultivate goldenrod? (We get it—many people in our part of Maine have spent years trying to keep goldenrod out  of their garden.) Try planting pollinator-friendly plants around the border of your lawn, which offers plenty of light for both the flowers and their frequent visitors, or in a container that can easily be moved as needed.

Some of Pinetree Garden Seeds go-tos for borders are:

To create container arrangements that capture the interest of passing pollinators, try:

What Goes Together Grows Together

Now we can properly consider companion planting! Companion planting, the practice of diversifying your garden with an array of plants that get along has been utilized by gardeners for years (far longer than we have been around!) to maximize production, reduce unwanted pests, and provide for pollinators.

Basically, you choose the crops you wish to plant in your garden for your family, and then choose additional plantings that will sustain pollinators. Choose your favorite winged wonder and add a few of their favorite crops to your garden and planting beds!

BATS
How often have you been working in your garden late into dusk as bats begin to cavort in the gathering darkness around you? It’s such a lovely sign of summer. Not only are bats productive pollinators, but they also help you keep biting insects in check. So what is the trick to attracting more bats to your garden? Night-blooming plants.

If you have ever thought about a moon garden, now is the time to create a magical nighttime display. Datura, moonflower, four-o’clock, yucca, evening primrose, night-blooming water lily and jessamine, cleome, and nicotiana are all attractive to our favorite nocturnal pollinators.

BEETLES
Black-Eyed Susans, lobelia, goldenrod, marigolds, milkweed, and yellow giant hyssop all help bring beetles to your garden. And that’s a good thing! While some beetles, like Japanese beetles, can be terrible for your garden, other beetles make great ground troops in the war against ground-dwelling pests. Beetles also enjoy low-lying plants that provide cover and shade from predators.

BEES
With all the stories about the collapse of bee colonies, bee gardens have grown in popularity across the country. Bringing bees to your garden will boost your production and help ….

The Ultimate Companion Planting Guide Part 2: Pollinators
Bees are busy little workers and need sustenance across the seasons. In the spring, they love borage, calendula, crocus, hyacinth, and lilac. In the summer, they will spend hours exploring bee balm, echinacea, foxglove, and  Zinnias. For autumn, give them a last glorious burst of color and pollen with asters and goldenrod.

BUTTERFLIES
Have you ever visited a butterfly garden in a science museum or nature center? Seeing flowering plants clustered with velvety wings is a truly magical experience. And by planting nectar-rich flora, you can capture some of that magic.

Remember that butterflies have two significant life stages that need nourishment—as caterpillars and as butterflies—and ideally, your garden will provide for both.

The best plantings will depend heavily on the type of butterfly you wish to attract as well as your own gardening microclimate. We find  this list of suggested butterfly plantings particularly thorough and helpful—and, of course, we stock many non-GMO organic heirloom varieties of each plant.

HUMMINGBIRDS
Plants with boldly colored, nectar-rich flowers can be all-natural alternatives to hummingbird feeders. The color red is particularly attractive to hummingbirds, who don’t have a strong sense of smell.

Bee balm, butterfly bushes, columbine, daylilies, foxglove, lilies, lupines, and petunias are all proven to make hummingbirds beat a path to your door.

And try to create a mix of heights! Hummingbirds will feed at ground level but can also sip from ten feet up. The most important thing? Those busy wings need room. Space plants with flight paths in mind!

MOTHS
Like butterflies, moths love nectar—and like bats, they are nocturnal flitters that fly toward fragrances. Evening primrose is a wonderful way to get moths to give your garden a look, as are jasmine and honeysuckle.

Water Sources

As you plan your companion plantings, look for ways to make your garden more welcoming for a longer stay. All pollinators are hard workers and appreciate sheltered spots to rest and water sources. Water features, birdbaths, and more can convince pollinators to spend more time in your garden. 

There are so many relationships to consider when selecting your seeds! At Pinetree Garden Seeds we make this process simpler by offering non-GMO hybrid, organic and heirloom seeds in smaller quantities at affordable prices. Together we can get the most out of our backyard gardens and become better stewards of the natural environments in which we live.

Ultimate Companion Planting Guide Part 1: Pest Prevention


5 Responses

Berne Basil
Berne Basil

January 30, 2020

I have grown culinary and tea herbs for over 30 years. I find that all the beneficial pollinators enjoy these herbs. I plant them diversely, in-between my veggies and other edibles and I watch the ‘show’. Lavender and Oregano, both get the attention of a plethora of bees and other pollinators; however, the bees RULE these plants flowers. I can get in there with them and as long as I do not ‘rough’ them up they could careless about me. They are quite docile and determined to gather all they can while they can. It is quite impressive to see the movement, the ‘flow’ on those plants when the bees are active. BTW, I have been growing chemical free since the beginning. After reading the labels, more than 30 years ago, I knew that I would NEVER want to use or even touch them.

Jean Childress
Jean Childress

January 08, 2020

Thank you so much for the great information on pollinators. I interrupted my gardening for many years while working ias an RN. I am now retired and am so grateful for the great list. I have forgotten so much from my early years and am now trying to teach grandchildren, and other teachable ‘younguns’ in the art of true gardening.

Sandy
Sandy

January 08, 2020

Lots of good info in this article- thank you!

Dorothy Popowski
Dorothy Popowski

January 08, 2020

I am excited to learn about pollinators and companion planting!

Maryann Loughry
Maryann Loughry

January 08, 2020

I would add tithonia to the list of flowers to attract hummingbirds. My tithonia were visited daily by hummingbirds and also many varieties of butterflies – monarch, swallowtails, red admirals and painted ladies.

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