Your Garden as an Urban Ecosystem
May 23, 2019
Spring is finally here! As your garden starts to look more and more alive it’s easy to focus on the daily changes your plants are going through. The tulips are coming out, the grass is looking greener by the minute, the lilac is full of buds and your herb garden is already overflowing with chives! But what about the wildlife?
It takes more than soil, water, and sunshine to have healthy green spaces. 90 percent of all plants require cross-pollination to spread and thrive and that’s where the wildlife comes into play. As natural habitats become less abundant, gardeners can provide sanctuaries for bees and other pollinators.
In urban areas, where space is often limited, gardening with pollinators in mind is a simple way to encourage biodiversity, and here is a secret …. the best way to attract pollinators to your backyard is to keep it untidy! Not too complicated is it?
Leave a patch of dry ground. About 70 percent of Canada’s native bees are gentle non-stinging pollinators that nest in the ground. By leaving a patch of dry, uncultivated and un-mulched ground in your garden, you will offer the bees an area to burrow into. Collect branches and twigs, gather them in small bundles and leave them outside, bees will use this as a nesting habitat. Bees that nest in the ground benefit your garden by improving soil quality, increasing water movement around plant roots and mixing up soil nutrients.
Offer the bees a safe source of water by making a bee bath: place a shallow plate at ground level, place a few flat stones in the plate to create an area for the bees to land safely, add fresh water below the stone level and replace the water every few days. A bee bath will also attract aphid eaters like ladybugs, and by placing it near a sick plant you will help them thrive.
Plant native flowers, plants and herbs. On average, native flowers attract four times as many pollinators as non-native species. Try to fill your garden with a choice of plants that will bloom through your gardening season. Bee season ranges from March to October; ask your garden center for help planning a garden that will be in full bloom from early spring to late fall. Blue, violet, white and yellow flowers tend to attract more bees. Plant them in clusters so the bees can feed in one area. Visit your local garden center, they will be able to suggest the best plant for your zone that will attract beneficial insects.
The Canadian Bee Council offers a floral calendar for Canada's beekeepers. Using the dropdown menu, you can quickly determine which plants are in bloom and the value of each blooming plant as nectar or pollen resources for bees. seeds.ca
Keep a pesticide-free yard. Choose organic plants when possible or learn how to grow your own plants from safe seeds and plant stock. Don’t buy plants that have been treated with commercial pesticides. Neonicotinoids are a type of pesticide that are in part responsible for worldwide pollinator decline. Don’t be shy about asking your garden centre for neonic-free plants, more and more garden centers are offering this option.
There are many other species of beneficial insects, such as paper wasps, ground beetles, ladybugs and lacewings that will thrive once you put these small changes in place in your garden. A diverse population of insects is crucial for the health and productivity of vegetable and ornamental gardens.
Protecting and helping garden wildlife should become part of every gardener’s planning as well as part of the efforts of all members of the green industry. No space is too small to be part of this global change to protect our ecosystem.
For more information about bees and the impact your garden can have, have a look at beesmatter.ca They will even send you a free seed packet called “Every Buzzing Garden”!
Every Buzzing Garden’s seed kit contains seed from five non-invasive varieties of flowering plants that are native to Canada and are recommended by Pollinator Partnership Canada. They’ve been specially selected to attract and nourish honey bees.
Over the past four years, Bees Matter has provided free Buzzing Gardens seed packets to over 250,000 gardens across Canada, enough to plant 1,250,000 sq. ft (116,128.8 m) of pollinator-friendly gardens. That’s close to 22 football fields or nearly 74 hockey rinks!
Let’s all do a little more to invite these critical creatures back into our shared outdoor spaces this season.