Attracting pollinators to your garden is very important if you want to have a thriving abundance of fruit and veggies. If you have ever tried growing pumpkins, watermelons or zucchini, you will know how important it is to get the flowers pollinated. If there are not enough pollinators in your garden, your fruit and veggies may not form and will wilt and die. If you have noticed this happening, you can manually pollinate by transferring pollen from one flower to another using a paintbrush. This, however, should only be a temporary solution as ultimately, you want to attract natural pollinators for a happy and healthy garden.
Some beneficial pollinators you can attract to your garden include honeybees, native bees, insects, ants, butterflies, moths, beetles and small birds. They can help transfer pollen from one flower to the next. Without pollination, some fruit and vegetable plants will not produce any viable fruit. This can be very frustrating if you have put in all the work to grow them and yet are not able to reap any produce.
Here are some ways to attract more pollinators to your garden and create a thriving, abundant ecosystem:
Flowers provide a food source for most pollinators. Planting a diverse range of flowers or flowering trees and shrubs will provide a variety of nectar and pollen for different pollinators. Some, like bees, will come to collect the pollen and others such as birds and butterflies will be trying to harvest the nectar. In doing this, they will transfer pollen on their legs and bodies to different flowers. Some plants are pollinated more efficiently by specific pollinators. Tomatoes and nightshades, for example, benefit from the vibrations bumble bees and blue banded bees produce while they are collecting pollen.
To attract a diverse range of pollinators, it is essential to have a diversity of flowers. A variety of colours is also beneficial as many pollinators are drawn to specific colour palettes. Some great flowers for pollinators include zinnia, sunflowers, lavender, poppies, wattle, banksia, calendula and many more. Allowing herbs and some vegetables to go to seed is also another great way to attract pollinators. Herbs such as rosemary, chives, basil, salvia and borage are great for producing flowers. I have found that some native bees are more attracted to these types of flowers and I have the beautiful blue banded bees in my garden every year when the radish and rocket go to flower.
Try to plant more heirloom varieties rather than hybridised. Hybridised varieties have often been developed for specific qualities such as disease resistance and visual appeal but can frequently produce less pollen and nectar.
Water is essential for your garden pollinators. It can be thirsty work buzzing about all day! Having water available, especially in the warmer months, will help pollinators to survive and thrive! Watering your garden early in the morning is not only great for your plants as it allows them time to absorb the water but will also leave little pockets and droplets of water for the pollinators. The Hoselink Retractable Hose Reel is a convenient way to get a quick early morning water in before you head out the door. It can also be a great idea to create a little water bath and add some rocks for the bees to land on. Summer heat can add a lot of stress on our wildlife, so having some shade and water available will be a welcome respite.
Ditch any nasty pesticides in your garden as this will severely impact the health and well being of visiting pollinators. Creating a healthy, diverse garden will attract beneficial insects, which will, in turn, help with your pest management naturally. Diversity in plants creates habitats for these beneficial insects to live within. Use plenty of compost and Hoselink’s Organic Plant Health Seaweed Tonic Concentrate for an extra boost to create strong, healthy gardens. Healthy plants will also produce more flowers that will attract more wildlife.
Take the time to slow down and observe your garden, and you will start to recognise which flowers are attracting beneficial insects. You may even find some you have never seen before! Most weekends, I have my morning coffee in the garden and just spend time observing without any distractions. We are often so busy trying to do something that we lose sight of all the beautiful little things going on.
Having some plants in your garden that are native to your area is a great way to attract local pollinators. As some native pollinators are only around at certain times of the year, it is important to have diversity in flowering seasons to provide food for pollinators all year round. Native plants are well adapted to your climate, so will thrive with a lot less maintenance. Our native pollinators are incredibly special, and it is important we do what we can to help them flourish.
Planting flowers in your veggie patch will not only look fantastic but will also help you grow more food at home. Try planting edible flowers that you can add to your salads or use as garnishes in baking and summer cocktails. Some edible flowers which are also great for attracting pollinators are borage, calendula, pansies, viola, dianthus, nasturtiums, marigold, roses and zinnia. You can also try adding them to ice cubes to create beautiful five-star drinks at home!
The great thing about planting more flowers and letting herbs and vegetables go to flower/seed is that you will have plants popping up next season without having to sow them! The seeds stay stored in the soil until the temperature and moisture levels are just right, then will burst into life. Each year I have flowers popping up in between my fruit trees without any help from me; it’s always such a welcome surprise! The more flowers you have, the more pollinators will be attracted to your garden and in turn, should mean more fruits and vegetables will be successfully pollinated.
Save our native bees
By planting more flowers, your garden will not only have beautiful splashes of vibrant colour but will also produce more food and help keep our native pollinators from disappearing altogether. With the increases in land clearing, industrial food production using pesticides and insecticides, and increased loss of habitat, our home gardens are more important than ever. We have over 1,700 native bees in Australia, and most of them are solitary. Solitary bees don't live in hives with queens like the honeybees. Many of them may already frequent your garden, and you don't even know it! The species appear in a range of colours and sizes from 2mm up to 26mm. Some smaller than a honeybee and quiet and some, like the blue banded bee, are large and make a loud buzzing noise. The best way to spot them is to spend time in your garden and observe all the different flowers. Together as a gardening community, we can help save our native bees by creating more habitats, providing food and not using any harmful sprays.
Time to get out and garden!