Butterflies and birds add so much natural beauty to a garden, which is a great reason to attract them, in and of itself! But there are other good reasons to plan your garden in such a way that you attract all manner of winged creatures: producing a healthier garden, enhancing food production and, in general, being very good for the environment.
As Humans, We Need Bees, Butterflies And Birds
Unfortunately, due to climate change and destruction of biodiverse habitats the world over, the bee populations, in particular, are in decline. Does that matter to you and me? Of course! Bees are what’s known as a keystone species: other species, including humans, need them to survive. Bees pollinate more than one third of the food supply around the world, so without bees, we don’t eat. While experts don’t seem to be able to pinpoint a single cause for the loss of bees, the effects will, if not stopped, be dramatic.
Birds, such as hummingbirds, provide excellent long distance cross-pollination and development of different plant species, as well as protection against encroachment by insects, like aphids. Butterflies, in addition to being beautiful, pollinate your garden as well.
Southern Ontario is a richly biodiverse part of Canada, with a lot of farming as well as urban development. With the latter pushing greater boundaries in Mississauga and beyond, planting a garden that attracts these all important pollinators is a great way to do your part to keep the environment thriving.
5 Ways To Attract Pollinators To Your Garden
1. Avoid chemicals — herbicides and pesticides are the number one way to ensure that pollinators will not frequent your garden. If you love the idea of growing vegetables, or even an extensive herb garden, you need pollinators to come and help!
2. Attractive plants are best — if you want to attract birds, bees and butterflies, it’s best to choose plants that they like. That doesn’t mean that your garden has to be entirely made up of those species, but just that including some in your garden beds and designs will help bring the pollinators in. A few examples include: daylilies, black eyed Susans, morning glories, crocus, cornflowers and lavender. If you want to add trees, any that are flower or fruit bearing will definitely be of interest to the pollinators. Hummingbirds are attracted to red—it’s why so many of the feeders for them are red—bee balm and coral bells are particular favourites! All three species enjoy sun flowers: in the winter, the heads become a chickadee friendly haven! Choose plants that flower at different times throughout the season, to ensure a continuous source of nectar and pollen for your pollinators. One great option? Wildflowers. They are nectar rich and easy to grow.
3. Group your flowers — pollinators like to do the work of collecting nectar and pollen and sharing these around but it’s better if you make it easier for them. Grouping like plants and flowers makes the trip from one bloom to another a lot easier, particularly for the bees. Since butterflies thrive on warm, sunny spots, creating several of these will help to bring them to your space.
4. Make habitats that are friendly to all three pollinators — trees, shrubs and vines on trellises are a good start. Each species enjoys a certain amount of shelter, both as safety from predators and to hide from the elements when they need to. Bird and butterfly houses are a great addition: they look nice and will definitely attract more creatures. Butterflies need warmth, so placement of their house in a sunnier part of the garden is ideal. For birds in particular, having a water source, like a bird bath or water feature in your garden, will make your garden seem like the perfect place to visit. Many varieties of bees are ground nesters, so having a patch of ground that you leave messy and more or less undisturbed and free of mulch, will entice bees to call your garden home.
5. Feed the creatures — while adding seed to the birdhouse is an obvious way to make sure the birds get a good meal, you have to be more careful with butterflies. As caterpillars, they will tend to eat the plants you are hoping to attract them to protect, so what you want to do is make sure you have some butterfly friendly plants available, planted away from your favourite garden beds. Such as? Milkweed, parsley and dill are among their favourites!
As you can see, planning your garden can include so much more than just aesthetics. You can do a lot to encourage pollinators to visit your yard, enhancing not only the beauty within, but promoting sound ecological practices for all of us.