In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
April, 2013
Regional Report

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Zinnias and other daisy-shaped flowers offer nectar and a landing pad for pollinating insects.

Garden to Attract More Pollinators

I have a bumper sticker that reminds everyone who likes to eat to thank a farmer, but maybe we need one that exhorts us to celebrate the pollinators that make it all possible. Farmers and gardeners depend on honeybees and other insects to move pollen from plant to plant so many of edibles we enjoy can produce food for us.

The bees are seeking food -- the pollen and nectar contained in blooming flowers. In a beautiful natural symbiosis, we both get what we want when flowers give up their nectar and some of their pollen and are pollinated in the process. Without pollinators, we would go hungry. The vast majority of edibles require pollinators to do what would be otherwise unaffordable, valued at nearly $4 billion but honestly, priceless.

Plant More Flowers
In choosing annual flowers for planting this spring, remember to include plenty that attract bees, butterflies, and other insect pollinators to your garden. Devote an area at least four feet square to a bed or collection of containers and choose some in bloom now and others that flower from summer to fall. Different bees and other insects arrive at intervals throughout the year and you want them all to find some food. As they learn they can depend on this food source, pollinators will visit often and so be there when you need them to pollinate your food crops. Plant a combination of heights, colors, and flower sizes in your foursquare for best results.

Follow Your Plan
Pick flowers that suit your gardening style but also provide diversity and high nectar production. For example, let pansies bloom at ground level in early spring followed by French marigold and Lilliput zinnia for later spring and summer. At knee height, snapdragons can be followed by amaranth and the shorter cleomes. Taller, at waist high and above you can use larkspur for early bloom, followed by sunflowers and Mexican sunflowers. Some of these will reseed for years.

You can also grow perennials to attract pollinators. Chives blooms start the year, then bee balm and salvias follow in the summer and go for months. Use these ideas or start a list you like, but always make a place for pollinators in your garden.

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