A pollinator garden is basically a perennial wildflower garden built for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. They usually contain bright, colourful flowers with strong scents. The purpose of a pollinator garden is to attract these beneficial bugs to your community garden, in order to help pollinate food plants and to make the space aesthetically pleasing.
This is a simple guide on how to start your own pollinator garden. This was the method we chose for our pollinator garden in Springhill, Nova Scotia. We chose to install an above ground garden, in a long (55 ft.), x 4 ft. wide, x 1 ft. High strip, which borders the entire length of our community garden. This saved on cultivation and other labour and time-intensive methods of preparing the site.
1) The first step is to find a suitable space for your perennial garden. These types of gardens can be built almost anywhere, but are usually used to create borders and entry-ways into other gardens. It never hurts to draw up a design plan and to measure your exact site location, as this will help you to determine how many plants to purchase, amount of soil and mulch needed, etc.
2) It’s never too early to start to source your plants. The Evergreen Foundation has a good database if you are looking for native plants: http://nativeplants.evergreen.ca/search/search-results.php?mode=guided&province=NS&type=Wildflower Pollinator gardens work best if you have a wide variety of flowers that bloom from spring – fall. Also knowing how high your plants will grow will help you decide where to place them in your garden. We sought out some native plants for our garden and also received some donations of “dig-ups” from the local community.
3) Now it’s time to bring in the soil. It is important to have soft soil that is free of rocks and weeds. Before adding the soil, weed fabric should be placed on the bottom. Although you will still get smaller surface weeds from seeds and spores that travel in the wind, the weed fabric will prevent grass from coming up through the soil. It is always a good idea to mix in some compost with the soil to maximize the amount of nutrients. Level and shape the soil, then lightly water it down to make it moist.
4) Now it’s planting time! Try to pack in as many plants as you can, pollinators are attracted to dense gardens. We staggered our perennials every 1-2 feet. The donated wildflowers were dug up the same day as our planting and watered heavily to increase their chances of survival. Ideally perennial gardens should be planted in the spring or fall, to avoid the heat or drought you may experience in the summer months.
5) The last step in the process is to spread mulch such as wood chips very thickly, over top of the soil around each plant. This helps with several things including preventing erosion from rain, retaining moisture in the soil, and it is also more pleasing to the eye. Make sure to keep the plants watered heavily for the first week or two after transplanting.
And that’s all! Before long you will notice all kinds of pollinators showing up to give your garden a boost.
By Josh Best