Let me tell you ‘bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees… wasn’t that a song from the 1960’s? What are you doing about attracting bees and butterflies to your yard? Restoring and establishing native plant communities is the most effective way to preserve habitat for native pollinators like bees and butterflies. Let’s take a break from talking lawns and discuss wildflowers.
In the past 15 years, concerns have been raised about declines in the bee population around the world. What may be causing this decline? Many studies have been made in many countries to try and find a cause and to stop this decline. Bees pollinate many crops and are critically important to our food supply. One reason for the decline is the lack of habitat and we need to create more nectar and pollen sources. Have you ever walked in a park and been stunned by some wildflowers and wished you could have that look in your yard? How about when you are driving and you see green grass and trees for miles and miles and then suddenly there comes a stretch of beautiful wildflowers in the center strip? You can do your part to help the bee and butterfly populations by planting some wildflowers around your yard; it’s beautiful and great for the environment. Do some research for the best wildflower species that specifically attract bees and butterflies; there is a good chance you’ll get some hummingbirds visiting your yard too.
How do you pick an area to plant wildflowers? Perhaps you have a slope or large hill that is difficult or dangerous to mow. Maybe you have an area of your property leading back into some woods or areas that you just do not want to mow or fertilize anymore. Wildflowers prefer sunny areas although some species can tolerate some shade. Most wildflower mixtures are available with a combination of annual and perennial wildflowers. Annuals of course last one year and perennials usually last year after year.
Planting of wildflowers is probably best in late spring. Proper soil and preparation is key for successful wildflower plantings. Consider killing off all vegetation and clearing debris away so soil is exposed. Scratch the soil to loosen it, spread the seed and lightly rake the seed into the top 1/4 inch of soil. You can cover this area lightly with some straw or mulch pellets to help retain moisture and reduce erosion. Water daily for 10-15 minutes if possible for a few weeks. Annuals should start to bloom in 45-60 days. Perennials generally set roots and florets the first year and will bloom the second year. Selective weed control is desirable for your garden to thrive since wildflowers are not very competitive plants. At the end of the season in late fall-early winter, cut down the wildflowers to 6 inches in order to promote vigorous growth the following year. The annuals will have produced some seed and they will hopefully re-seed themselves and germinate the following year.
The benefits are huge with wildflowers as they create a naturally beautiful sight in your yard. You’ll be the envy of your neighborhood; everybody goes crazy over a nice field of wildflowers. Grandchildren love to pick or cut flower bunches to give to Mimi and Pop-Pop! Sitting by a beautiful wildflower garden with a book and an iced tea is very relaxing. It’s fun to watch how the bees, butterflies and perhaps hummingbirds go about their business.
Join the National Pollinator Garden Network which is promoting the “Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.” There also is a White House initiative, “National Strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators.” Encourage your friends to start a pollinator wildflower garden and then register it. If you plant a wildflower garden next year, I bet some of your friends and neighbors will plant one too after they see yours.