If you have a garden but have noticed a lack of bees, butterflies and birds flying around, you may be missing a few key pieces in your garden’s ecosystem

Planting flowering herbs and veggies is a great way to attract certain insects to your yard, but starting a pollinator garden (or setting up pollinator containers) is a complete game changer for both you and the environment.

Why start a pollinator garden?

Pollinators such as bees, butterflies and birds are a vital part of our ecosystem and produce nearly one-third of the world’s food. These creatures depend on food sources and shelter to survive, and as urban sprawl continues, there are fewer of these natural areas to protect and feed them. By planting a biodiverse garden filled with things to feed and house pollinators year-round, you’re playing a role in helping to keep the environment thriving. After you establish a pollinator garden in your yard, you’ll notice that the pollinators will naturally gravitate towards your area and even stick around to pollinate your veggie gardens (which will help feed you in return).hummingbirdPhoto by John Duncan on Unsplash

What to plant and how to set up your garden for pollinators

Pick a sunny spot: Ensure that your garden plots or containers are receiving at least six hours of sun a day so that flowers, shrubs and grasses can grow and thrive. Your plants will also appreciate having well-draining soil in the bed (or in the pots) and will benefit from a little compost fertilizing.

Water sources: Pollinators like butterflies enjoy gathering and sipping water from shallow pools, mud puddles and bird baths. Setting up a safe water station for them is just as important as planting those seeds.

Native plants: Plant as many native species as possible, as these will not only best suit the needs of native pollinators, but a large majority of these populations actually depend on them. Take a look around your property to see what native plants may already be growing so that you know what grows well in your location. Here are a few native plants in Canadian provinces:

  • British Columbia: Pacific Dogwood, Broad-leaved Stonecrop
  • Alberta: Lodgepole Pine, Labrador Tea
  • Saskatchewan: Narrow-leaf Coneflower, Marsh Marigold
  • Manitoba: Common Yarrow, Evening Primrose
  • Ontario: Pawpaw Tree, Cardinal Flower
  • Quebec: Hairy Beard-tongue, Heart-leaved Aster
  • New Brunswick: Blue-bead Lily
  • Nova Scotia: Canada Lily
  • Prince Edward Island: Red Osier Dogwood
  • Newfoundland: White Meadowsweet, Highbush Cranberry

Plant a variety: You can, of course, also plant non-natives that will help feed pollinators—just because something isn’t native to your area doesn’t mean that bees and butterflies won’t love it and benefit from it. Overall, it’s important to plant a variety, which includes going beyond flowers into trees, shrubs, mosses, wildflowers and grasses that help to house, feed and shelter pollinators. Always make sure to source plants sustainably, choose organic wildflower seeds, and talk to local nurseries about their practices and whether or not they use pesticides and herbicides.

Plant for the seasons: We often think of spring as the time to plant blooming buds, but pollinators will love you if you have things flowering, budding and blooming at different times of the year. Thankfully, many plants will bloom at different points throughout the season so it’s just a matter of finding the ones that you’d like to plant, doing a little planning, and making sure you have something that draws pollinators year-round.

It’s not too late to get your spring pollinator garden started. Just be sure to wait until the threat of frost has passed in your area and you can either direct seed or start your seedlings indoors. Happy (pollinator) gardening!butterfly pollinatingPhoto by Laura Ockel on Unsplash