By Makaela Willis, Marketing & Owner Services Assistant
As the snow finally melts away, we are all starting to make our to do lists for spring cleaning or starting to plan out our gardens. I may not have a yard anymore as a college apartment renter, but I remember the many hours I would spend helping to clean up my parents’ yard as a kid and teenager, as well as helping to plan more than one garden in my lifetime. So, I decided to put together a list of things you can do to get your yard or garden ready for planting and encourage those early spring pollinators that help make your garden grow and our ecosystems thrive.
- Hold off on the yard work. Don’t remove those old leaves in your yard and wait to mow your yard for the first time. Let those flowering weeds be in the early spring. Leaving your yard a little “unkept” and letting the dandelions and clovers alone when they start blooming helps the bees and other pollinators survive. Just wait until it is a little warmer outside. Instead, start prepping those garden beds or direct sow some cool weather crops.
- Have specialty items in your yard: Put out a hummingbird feeder or create/purchase a bee box. This will help you have some control over where the bees move into instead of finding them inside your shed, in a random tree in your backyard, or maybe even in your yard or basement. (70% of bees live underground.) Also, putting up a hummingbird feeder can provide the pollinators with a source of food before the flowers are blooming. Your garden could attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, too! GreenTree recently brought in a mason bee house that you can put up to shelter the bees.
- Put in a Butterfly or Bee Garden: Dedicate a part of your yearly garden or backyard to plants that help our local pollinators thrive. In a butterfly garden, you may have holes in your foliage, but you could also find caterpillars and cocoons that you can watch hatch into butterflies. You can also add in a “Bee Bath” – a shallow bird bath or small bowl of clean water with an arrangement of rocks and pebbles for bees and pollinators to rest on as they drink. Making one of these gardens also reminds me of making fairy gardens as a kid. (For more ideas on making your yard a pollinator’s haven, check out these articles: 10 Ways to Save the Bees or Gardening for Pollinators)
- Focus on native plants instead of hybrids or popular yard plants: This may take a little research, but plantings trees, foliage, and flowers that are native to your area really helps our ecosystems thrive. Right now, lots of people are even switching to planting grasses that are native to their region. Here in the Midwest, we can plant white clover, creeping thyme, and other grasses. They also take less maintenance and water to keep up with! So, moving to more native plants in your yard could save you money as well as saving the bees. Here are some alternatives that are Native to this region.
- Stop using pesticides or go the non-chemical route: Many pesticides are really harmful to pollinators like bees and butterflies, and they can damage the ecosystem around you, too. If you prefer to spray, there are natural options for managing weeds in your yard and protecting your garden from pests. Just make sure to do your research and look at the labels to find alternatives that use non-toxic or non-chemical ingredients.
- Know who to call when you need to relocate any bees or other creatures/insects: When you use insect repellents or insecticides to remove nuisance insects you may be harming pollinators as well. When searching for someone to remove bees from your space, look up ‘apiaries near me’ or ask local beekeepers. They will know how to relocate the bees rather than killing them. Make sure to do your research when choosing someone to remove pests and ask the exterminator about other creatures and insects that could be in danger from the products they use.
Now, for those of us that don’t have a yard (like me) there are other ways that we can help. If you have a balcony or patio you can put out planter boxes or a hummingbird feeder. Even without a yard or patio, we can still spend our money on things that help aid pollinators. Buy local honey to support local beekeepers. Or, purchase items that help educate consumers and give some of their profits towards environmental change; like Me and the Bees Lemonade and Equal Exchange. Choosing these products always makes me feel like I am making a difference, no matter how small it is. Being informed about what you are consuming is a great step towards protecting our ecosystems and creating environmental change.
There are a lot of ways to consider our local ecosystems when doing spring yard work and making your space ready for all the summer activities that await us in the warmer months. Small choices like planting native plants or maintaining a bee bath can make a huge difference for the pollinators.