Gardens are more than just pretty flowers. They also offer refuge for birds, pollinators and other beneficial insects that are needed to keep our gardens looking healthy and beautiful.
But how do you attract birds, pollinators and other insects to your garden? Three simple ways: food, shelter and water. Just like us, wildlife needs these basic necessities to survive. Take a close look at your garden and ask yourself, ‘Would I want to live here?’ Food is usually pollen (protein), nectar (energy), other bugs and leaves. Your garden should also have plants that flower all season so there is always a food source available.
A shelter for insects and birds may become a permanent home, a place to raise their young or used as a quick rest stop. To create shelter, leave cut plant stems exposed as certain bees will burrow in the pith; leave twigs and brush in small piles around your yard; and leave bare patches in your garden for insects that like to borrow in the ground. You can encourage bees and other insects to move in by providing nesting boxes.
Water can be found in small mud puddles, a pond or a birdbath. Add a few rocks to a pond or birdbath for the bees and other insects to land on.
A great garden type that attracts birds, pollinators and insects is a rain garden. Low maintenance and water efficient, a rain garden is a planted depression that has plants that can tolerate wet conditions for a short period of time and very dry conditions over a long period of time.
Rain gardens reduce rain runoff by allowing stormwater to soak into the ground, instead of flowing into storm drains which diminishes groundwater. You divert the rain from your gutters to flow directly into the garden. The water stays in the garden for less than 24 hours as it slowly soaks into the soil. Some of the plants to use in a rain garden are:
- Joe-pye weed
- Zig-zag goldenrod
- Bee balm
- Swamp milkweed
- Blazing star
Unless there are really long, extended periods with no rain, this type of garden shouldn’t need supplemental watering after it is established.