National Pollinator Week June 20-26

Photo: pollionators.org

National Pollinator Week is June 20-26! Creating your own nature sanctuary will give you the satisfaction of giving native pollinators a helping hand with the added bonus of significantly enhancing the value of your property. You’ll also have the opportunity to share your extra plants and seeds with friends and neighbors.

When considering what to plant for pollinators, think native trees and shrubs as well as wildflowers and grasses. Woody flowering plants have an abundance of blossoms, and many of them offer nectar and pollen in the early spring when food is in short supply for native bees.

Also, be sure to offer a diversity of plants that will bloom throughout the growing season.” Providing three species each for spring, early summer, and late summer/fall and at least three plants of each species is considered the minimum requirement for a functioning pollinator garden. “Pollinator Plants for Northern New England Gardens” is a great resource offered by the UNH Extension Service that includes a flowering calendar showing the months that high value pollinator perennials are in bloom in our region. And don’t forget host plants for caterpillars – birds can’t feed their hungry chicks without them!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you might find that a naturalistic landscape will “grow on you” as you take steps toward providing more habitat for pollinators and other essential organisms.

Local plant nurseries here in western MA with good selections of native plants that are also eager to offer helpful advice about what plants will thrive in different growing conditions include That’s a Plenty Farm (Hadley), Gardeners Supply (Hadley), Nasami Farm (Whately), and Wing and a Prayer Nursery (Cummington). For a list of nurseries and seed companies elsewhere in the northeastern US, see wildseedproject(dot)net > buy native plants.

Rewilding
Rewilding is an accessible and exciting way to welcome pollinators, birds, and other essential organisms where you work and live. The following information is excerpted from the Wild Seed Project.

Rewilding is a deliberate shift from human-centered, intensively managed landscapes to humans sharing their lands with the rest of nature. It is an intentional practice of restoring native plants in urban, suburban, and rural landscapes to reverse habitat loss, support ecosystems services, and bring nature back into our daily lives.

Rewilding begins with recognizing native plants as the basis of the local food web. Native plants are essential for populations of insects that in turn support birds, which serve as the bellwether of ecological health and resiliency. Recent research by University of Delaware biologist Doug Tallamy demonstrates that for a place to support a diversity of life, native plant species must represent at least 70% of the biomass in the landscape. Below this critical threshold, food webs collapse and habitats unravel.

Rewilding can look intentional and ornamental while still providing essential ecosystem services. Well-defined edging and beautifully arranged textures, layers, flowers, and fruits set gardens apart from more wild spaces. They are made more ecologically functional by adding a diversity of native plants and using more wildlife-friendly practices, such as eliminating the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and keeping natural leaf litter intact. How we manage our native plantings will determine whether we can sustain and support the life-cycles and successful reproduction of butterflies, moths, bees, birds, salamanders, frogs, and many more organisms.

Native species of oaks, cherries, willows, birches, poplars, and elms are found to support the widest variety of life. Since trees produce such a large volume of leaves that insects rely on as a food source, they are in turn essential to feeding songbirds with a bounty of protein-rich caterpillars. The sheer amount of vertical mass we’ll get from planting native trees will carry us toward our rewilding goal of 70% native plant biomass in leaps and bounds.

Rather than letting resource-sucking lawns dominate the bulk of our yards, they can instead be used sparingly and purposefully, such as for recreation or as pathways that convey us through the landscape. Urban and suburban lawns can be mostly converted into meadows, or other types of layered plantings with trees, shrubs, and groundcovers to feed pollinators, birds, and other wildlife.

Restoring native plants is not just about planting, but also preserving existing native vegetation. Sometimes mowing less or removing invasive plants is all that is needed to encourage native plants to make a comeback and return these landscapes to the vibrant species-rich places they once were.

You don’t need land of your own to be a rewilder! Adopt a street tree to care for, tend a sidewalk hellstrip, display native containers on your stoop, plant a window box with natives, encourage your favorite restaurant or place of business to add native plants to their outdoor spaces, or make your community garden plot into a safe haven for butterflies and birds.

It can be intimidating to talk to your neighbors, friends and family about the need to plant natives for habitat creation, and it can be even more difficult to ask others to change their landscape practices. One way to spark conversation in a non-confrontational way is to put up a yard sign that offers insight into the work you are doing. Curious passersby will stop and ask questions if they like what they see. You can start by inspiring others through your example.

“Take the Pledge” and commit to these ten action steps to help support healthy populations of butterflies, bees, birds and all forms of life crucial to a functioning ecosystem.. Pledged rewilders will receive regular guidance and tools from Wild Seed Project to aid their rewilding process, including further explanation of these steps:

1. Plant trees that support local food webs.

2. Shrink your lawn.

3. Fill every open niche with a wide diversity and abundance of plants.

4. Target specific pollinators to support.

5. Change your maintenance regimen.

6. Add wildlife-friendly features to your site.

7. Refrain from fertilizing or spraying pesticides.

8. Remove invasive plants.

9. Join forces with your neighbors.

10. Educate your local civic associations.

(The “10 Rewilding Action steps” have been adapted from Doug Tallamy’s new book, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard.)

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