by Charlene Burgi
Sharing seems to be a common thread among gardeners. They share their knowledge, tricks of their trade, slips or seeds from their garden, photos of their prize roses and especially the over-abundance produced in their gardens.
This week was no exception for sharing in the world of gardening. Keith Bancroft, one of my co-workers at MMWD before I retired, emailed to remind me it is National Pollinators Week
. This special week would have slipped right by me had he not shared this knowledge. After all, my focus was on Summer Solstice and trying to determine what is devouring the leaves on the zucchini I just planted.
Keith, however, remembered that one of my favorite subjects is planting for pollinators. There is something magical about working in the garden to the hum of bees gathering pollen about you—or noting the various butterflies flitting to and fro sipping moisture from flowers. It’s fascinating to watch syrphid flies hover about the veggies like mini helicopters, or to witness colorful lady bugs and praying mantises demonstrate their ability to rid the garden of unwanted pests.
Over the years, I have found that designing and planting for pollinators goes hand-in-hand with other Marin-Friendly
gardening practices. Not only does one need to consider the types of plants to go into the garden, but also how best to manage weeds and pests. Controlling pests with chemicals is a little like me turning the donkeys out into the garden to weed: Like grazing donkeys, insecticides are not very selective. They risk harming the beneficial insects you want to attract. And if you are a statistics kind of person: Did you know only about 5% of the insect world is bad for our gardens?
What is the solution? Look for ways to work with nature rather than against it. For example, I needed a solution for the pesky flies that breed in the horse and donkey manure. Yesterday I scattered tiny, just-hatched fly predators. These little gnat-like creatures will lay their eggs on the pupae of the pesky flies they find in the manure, which in turn will kill the immature flies.
What might you do to celebrate National Pollinator Week? Start with choosing plants to attract beneficial insects. Native plants are great choices. Plant successively to provide these garden guests a long-term food supply. Encourage bats and mason bees by providing for their special housing. Avoid herbicides and insecticides. (If you must use them, apply at dusk when most pollinators are not working in the garden.) Instead, focus on natural biological methods for managing pests. There are too many to mention here, but you’ll find lots of ideas online for attracting beneficial insects to do the job for you. Lastly, share your knowledge with others. Another common thread among gardeners is we love to learn!