May 2—Despite a recent growing interest in pollinators, experienced gardeners from years ago always knew that the more bees and butterflies attracted to their plots, the better their gardens.
As we get inspired by the greening of spring, it would makes sense that all of us keep pollinators in mind as we renew our home landscapes with plants, flowers, grass, shrubs and trees.
Pollinators, including bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects, are necessary for our survival. One out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of the efforts of pollinators, including fruits, vegetables and seeds, according to the U.S. National Park Service.
The importance of our landscape choices is obvious when you take into account that at least 75 percent of all flowering plants are pollinated by insects and animals. This amounts to more than 1,200 food crops. And besides providing our food, plants help stabilize soils, clean the air, supply oxygen and support wildlife.
Local residents have shown an interest in supporting pollinators by urging their city councils to adopt ordinances that are pollinator friendly.
Although the St. Peter City Council voted 5-2 last week against allowing beekeeping in city limits, the fact it's the second time the issue surfaced in four years proves people are persistent about wanting healthy bees to have a home. Part of the council's objection to allowing backyard hives was tied to not wanting the beekeeping to affect native pollinators.
In North Mankato, the council unanimously passed a natural yards ordinance in February. The ordinance allows residents to have up to 30% of the non-pervious portion of their yard converted to a managed native planting area or pollinator garden.
Such initiatives are progress in a global climate that demands planning for the long term. City residents often feel pressure to keep up with the neighbors' well-manicured lawns, despite the negative impact on the environment by keeping out flowering native plants and chemically treating the grass.
Benefits of a flowering lawn cited by the University of Minnesota Extension Service include: increased lawn resilience to environmental pressures, natural diversity that benefits pollinators and the beauty of the flowers themselves.
A diversity in pollinator plants helps attract a variety of bees and insects that vary in what they are attracted to. Bee species also forage at different times of the year, so providing pollinator plants from spring to fall is important as well. The Extension Service and reputable garden centers can help you choose pollinator-friendly plants that will grow in your yard's conditions.
Spring is an exhilarating season when we rediscover the outdoors. Let's also make it the time when we recognize the good we can do by making pollinator-friendly landscaping choices.