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EASY POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY GARDENING

We care a LOT about pollinators…especially the bees who generate season-specific, raw, local honey - one of the key ingredients in Sweet’s organic elderberry syrup!  

There are around 4,000 species of bees in North America.  Along with their overseas cousins, they pollinate 80% of the world’s plants, including 90 different food crops.  In fact, one out of every four bites you eat is made possible by a bee.  When you count other pollinators like bats, butterflies, beetles, birds, and small mammals, that figure bumps up to one in three bites!  

Bee populations in the United States have experienced a 30% decline since the early 2000’s due to mite infestations in their colonies plus environmental factors.  Many pollinators (particularly butterflies) suffer from habitat loss from development and widespread farm use of herbicides that kill off the native wildflowers.  In some areas, unusually severe winters have killed overwintering bee hives.  In other places, warmer, earlier spring weather causes some flowers to bloom too soon - before some pollinators emerge from hibernation.

Pollinators need help!  Here are specific ways you can jump in.

SPREAD THE WORD

  • Share this post.
  • Share a list of pollinator-magnet plants native to your area (details below) with neighbors.
  • Recommend your favorite non-toxic herbicide recipe to that neighbor who uses commercial chemicals on their weeds.  
    PROVIDE FOR POLLINATORS

    Set aside part of your yard, patio, or balcony as a pollinator-friendly space.  You don’t need a big area to make a difference!  Be sure to include:

    1.  Clean Water:  Scatter pebbles in a shallow container filled with water or place a few stones in your birdbath to give pollinators with short legs a place to stand as they hydrate!  Remember to change the water often, and always keep the water source in the same spot so little critters can find it.

    2.  A Place to Nest:   About 70% of bees burrow in the soil, so leave a section of your garden or a few pots of dirt unplanted for them.  Other bees use pre-existing cavities or bore holes in wood for nesting spaces.  They'd appreciate you leaving a brush pile in a sunny, out-of-the-way spot. If you’re into DIY projects, try building a home for mason bees using these handy instructions.  Or buy one pre-made!  

    3.  Toxin-Free Space:  Natural herbicides combined with helpful garden insects can control weeds and keep bad bugs at bay.  They're also budget-friendly!  Check out this helpful article on nontoxic herbicides and pesticides.  Learn to cut your mosquito population without pesticides with our earlier blog post.

    4.  Purposeful Planting:  Start small by scattering a packet of wildflower seeds in an out-of-the-way section of your yard, or in a few containers.  

    If you're ready to go a step further, choose 3-5 species of NATIVE plants for each growing season to ensure a steady food supply.  Did you know that plants with purple or blue blooms produce more nectar and draw more pollinators?  If you’re buying annuals, pick ones with single-top blooms (like daisies or marigolds) instead of multi-top blooms (like double impatiens).  Pollinators find it easier to get at nectar and pollen when blooms are simple.

    Selecting native plants is CRITICAL.  They are suited to your area’s climate and soil, and pollinators rely on those particular plants at specific times of the year.  Pollinator Partnership has very helpful planting guides for each region of the United States.   Simply enter your ZIP code on this site to access a free, downloadable guide to native plants, including a printable list of pollinator magnets for your specific area!

    The native version of a plant is not always available at a big-box store!  It’s important to bring a good list when you shop, and check the tag or seed packet to ensure the entire scientific name matches up to your list.  Local farm stores are likely to carry native plants and seeds, and your state’s extension office can also direct you to nearby suppliers.  College botanical gardens have regular native plant sales as well!  

    For those of you in North Carolina - check out the list below, compiled just for you by Team Sweet's.  Many of these plants can be grown in containers, if you don't have much space to spare.  Others get pretty big!  Check out each plant’s growing specifics before you decide.  

    Top 25 Native Pollinator Plants - North Carolina

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    - Tracy Dygert for Sweet’s Syrup

    Sources:

    • Carolina Pollinator Garden

    • Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. Department of Agriculture

    • New Complete Guide to Gardening, Better Homes & Gardens, 1997

    • NC Cooperative Extension Service: www.growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu

    • Pollinator Partnership:  www.pollinator.org

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