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n a practical sense, gardeners are well-positioned to help wildlife; our vegetables and flowers provide nutrients and our garden debris can be used for nesting materials. Our efforts in the garden are rewarded with birdsong and well-pollinated vegetables. If we plant a wildflower patch, we get to relax as we watch the Poppies and Hyssop buzz with happy bees. Goldfinches and cardinals dart from seeding Echinacea as swallowtail butterflies feed on Wild Bergamot—a welcome sight indeed!

Diverse plant species also help to support a more balanced ecosystem within the garden by creating more habitat for beneficial insects and birds who, in turn, prey upon our less welcome insect pests. And one of the easiest ways to invite this diversity into the garden is by sowing a Flower Mix in the spring or fall.

Browse our full collection of Flower Mixes here. For mixes with perennial flowers, or those needing cold-stratification, sow the seeds in fall or early spring and rake in. For mixes with mostly annuals, sow after your last spring frost. Want to grow a pollinator-friendly patch of your own? Follow the steps outlined below, find a Flower Mix suited to your growing conditions, and get sowing as early as this fall.

THE BASICS

To invite pollinators into your growing space, simply meet their basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Try Pollinator Petal Mix or Eastern Pollinator Mix for a selection of flowers beloved by bees, moths, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Food: Pollinators feed on nectar. The greater the amount of flowering plant varieties, the greater the amount of pollinators that will be attracted. Attracting plants aren’t limited to ornamental flowers; many herb and vegetable blossoms also provide desirable nectar sources. A diverse selection of flowers–of varying shape, size, bloom time, color, and height–will equal a greater diversity, population, and well-being of pollinators.

Water: Pollinators, just like gardeners and plants, need water to survive. Shallow pools with floating elements (for flying pollinators to land on) are ideal–even a small tray or bird bath with a few floating twigs will work. Some pollinators make use of muddy water for providing them with important minerals or even building material (for bee hives), which may make you see the pesky mud puddle in your garden path in a whole new light.

Shelter: While individual plants or plots of pollinator-friendly varieties are doubtlessly beneficial, larger plots or meadows provide not only a source of food, but a safe home and breeding ground as well. Once the flower patch is established and there is no risk of it being overtaken by competing plants, a few weeds can actually be beneficial; they will create a safe home for pollinators to lay eggs, grow larvae, and even overwinter.

A monarch caterpillar on Milkweed

A mud dauber wasp on a Zinnia.

Great spangled fritillary on Echinacea.

THE PROCESS

Timing: Sow your wildflower patch in fall or early to mid-spring . If your flower meadow mix contains perennials, like Bird Lover's Mix or North East Native Mix, you can sow in late fall, and the perennial seeds will establish enough to overwinter and come up the following spring. An annual-heavy mix like Endless Blooms will do best when sown in springtime.

Bed prep: Prepare the soil as you would for any bed. Clean out the weeds. Aerate with a garden fork if compact, then rake flat.

Sowing: Spread the seeds out evenly over an area no bigger than 100 square feet. Then press seeds into the soil by walking over the planted area (with flat-soled shoes!) or using a board to pat them down. If the soil is dry, water the seeds in. In fall, soils are usually moist enough without.

Maintaining: Continue watering in spring for a few weeks; again, fall sowings usually don't need it. Weed fastidiously until plants reach 12-18" in height. Be patient; the perennial blooms will get better every year!

Blazing Star: a pollinator magnet.

We all want to change the world, but sometimes it can feel difficult, discouraging, or impossible. How wonderful is it that we can help sustain beneficial species, secure our natural and man-made systems, and beautify our backyards all at once?

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