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With yet another heat wave rolling across the country, your plants will be experiencing an increased need for water to continue growing. Along with a need for water, some of your produce plants may need some extra pollination in order to fully grow! My miniature watermelons for example start to bloom, turn black and then fall off the vine. From what I understand, my problem is a lack of pollinators visiting my garden. My tomatoes are doing well, probably a little two well. My girlfriend has taken to telling me that they look a lot like weeds, but stops complaining when she has fresh tomatoes for her lunches. But, to get to the bottom of my lack of maturing watermelons, I decided to do some research and figured I’d share my findings with you all! So sit back and read all about how you can increase the number of pollinators that visit your garden.
First and foremost the main thing you want to do is ensure that a wide variety of pollinators are visiting your garden. Different pollinators will be attracted to and help pollinate different plants, depending on their preference. One way to ensure you are attracting a variety of pollinators, is to have more variety within your garden. Different pollinators are attracted to different colored flowers. Bees for example, will be more attracted to yellow, white, purple and blue colored flowers. Butterflies, on the other hand, prefer red and purple toned flowers. Making sure you have a good variety of colors will help you make sure that you get all kinds of pollinating visitors frequenting your garden. Along the lines of planting variety, you should also try to make sure there are different heights of flowers as well as making sure your flowers are on different blooming schedules. Ensuring your garden is full of variety is a great way to make sure you have pollinators of all kinds throughout the entirety of the summer growing season. You should even take into consideration the scent each plant gives off. The more varied the smells coming from your garden are, the more varied your visiting pollinators will be!
Another great way to increase the likelihood of your garden getting pollinated is to plant in odd numbered bunches. If you look closely, mother nature seems to have a bit of a rhythm or method to her madness. Flowers plants are often found in groupings of three to five in the wild. Pollinators, for the most part, are rather short sighted so having bunches is a great way to be sure bees, butterflies and other winged garden helpers will be able to find their mark.
If you're lucky enough to have a large amount of space in your garden, consider adding a water feature. Shallow bird baths, small ponds and even fountains with a catch basin at the bottom are pollinators best friends. Like any other living creatures, pollinators require water to live. If you live by a sizeable water source, you may be able to get away without offering any of your own. However, if like me, you don't live next to a lake, river or stream you may need to consider another option. Watering your plants may provide a little bit of hydration for our pollinating friends, but generally speaking you'll need to offer more than that to keep everyone happy. Not only do water features help your garden in the long run, they're usually rather pretty! Who doesn't want to help their garden while making their yard nicer to look at, it's a win-win!
Think bigger! Another great way to keep the pollinators in your life happy is to provide shelter. Trees, hedges and larger shrubs are perfect at doing just that so your flying friends are able to live happy and productive lives in your garden. As an added bonus, choosing the right tree or bush can provide more flowers and nectar to make your space irresistible! Maples and crabapple trees are both great options to provide a place to live as well as additional flowers to attract and keep new residents.
Avoid hybrids, think locally! Hybrid flowers and produce plants may look nice and potentially provide more fruit and veggies than their traditional counterpart, but they don't necessarily provide the same nutrients to pollinators. In the same vein, planting native plants can really boost your daily visitors. Think about it this way, the pollinators you are looking to attract are local to your area. Local bugs will recognize local plants more easily as it's what they're accustomed to. The more non-native plants you have, the more confusing finding your garden can become for our pollinators. If you plant what they like, they're more likely to find your garden and set up shop there as opposed to somewhere else. Native plants are also a great idea because they, generally speaking, aren't invasive and won't cause problems for your yard later on. I'm sure many of you who are Washington residents (especially western Washington) have seen the take over of non-native blackberry bushes. These tall and fast growing bushes are better at growing in and taking over a large area more so than their native, low to the ground counterpart. While you may be thinking, "those blackberry bushes produce too much fruit, surely pollinators like them." You're not wrong per say, but I'm willing to bet you wouldn't want one in your yard. They get huge quickly, have giant thornes and really don't look very nice at all. Now, if you don't want this issue with any other plants you choose for your garden, I'd recommend going native.
Pretty much the final tip that will come in handy when attracting pollinators is to avoid pesticides if at all possible! If you can, rely on things like ladybugs and wasps to take care of your pest problems for you. If, for whatever reason, you insist on using pesticides in your garden, try to follow these simple rules. Spray when pollinators are least active. This will allow you to both protect your plants while keeping them from becoming food for something aside from you. Don't spray your plants while they're in bloom as this is when most pollinators are going to be around your plants. If you are going to use pesticides, try to find an organic approved brand so as to not kill everything in your garden. Also, just be aware of what you're using in the first place! Any pesticide spray can leach into the soil of your garden and possibly transfer harsh chemicals into your growing produce. It's generally not a great idea to go around eating dangerous chemicals, even if they do come in the form of a tomato you grew.
Whatever reason you have for trying to increase both the quality and quantity of pollinators in your garden, I hope this was helpful! I for one would love to actually grow a full sized miniature watermelon by the end of the summer so all this research and writing isn't for nothing! I hope none of y'all are allergic to bees, or if you are that you plant things to attract hummingbirds and butterflies! Following this paragraph I'll include a list of flowers/plants that each of the three main pollinators are likely to go for so you can plan your garden accordingly! I hope everyone reading this has a great day and I'll be back next week!
Flowers for Bees: Bee balm, dill, purple coneflower, mint and sunflowers to name a few!
Flowers for Butterflies: : Salvia coccinea, Mexican sunflower, yarrow, butterfly weed, butterfly bush.
Flowers for Hummingbirds: Penstemon, honeysuckle, torch lily, salvia (all types), hummingbird mint, trumpet vine.