Importance of Planting Pollinator Gardens in the Midwest

If you’ve consulted a calendar lately, you know that it’s (technically) spring.  However, if you’ve looked out a window recently, you might beg to differ. But true spring will arrive in the Midwest soon with the temperatures in Wisconsin trending upward, albeit slowly.

While it’s still probably too early to get a full-fledged garden going in your yard or to move the containers permanently out to your patio, gardening contributor Melinda Myers suggests that we can start to make changes to help a sometimes underrated part of the garden equation – the critters that help pollinate.

"All those insects that you find in your garden are doing good things," she says. Although many of us associate bees with pollination, Myers explains that every insect contributes to our gardens in their own way, such as butterflies, beetles and flies.

"We're focusing on all those organisms that help pollinate our plants so we get fertilization and we have food to eat, seeds to grow flowers," Myers explains. She also says each bug is special and "very important for our well being as well as the environment."

With some pollinator's natural habitats being more spread out or destroyed completely, insects have to work harder and travel further in order to do their jobs. Myers suggests making pollinator gardens to increase their habitats. This can be done by making larger garden beds and possibly even extending the project to your neighbor's garden so that the insects can be more efficient.

However, if you can only make changes on your own property, Myers suggests using plants that offer food, water and shelter. Food can be provided by mixing in native plants among cultivated plants to make your garden more visually appealing while still being environmentally friendly.

Myers also notes that creating a "bug bath" for flies and butterflies with a little bit of salt added to the water will help attract and keep pollinator species.  And lastly, make sure there is shelter for the insects by leaving some leaf litter leftovers from the winter on the ground and abstain from cutting down all shrubs or trees. Myers explains that this not only creates shelter and food for bugs, but is also a helpful fertilizing tool for other plants.

She also recommends letting nature take care of your garden problems instead of turning to destructive artificial means ,such as pesticides that usually create more issues. "Pesticides hurt not only the insects we're trying to control, but a lot of them that we need to keep," Meyers explains.