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GardenSMART :: Invite Pollinators for Dinner

Invite Pollinators for Dinner

Pollinators are critical to a bountiful fruit and vegetable harvest.
By the National Garden Bureau

As winter thaws and the spring gardening season begins, the National Pollinator Garden Network has an important message for those about to plant vegetables, fruiting shrubs and trees, and other types of edibles: Pollinators are critical to the success of your harvest.

From the zucchini patch to the apple orchard, honeybees, butterflies, bumblebees and other pollinators visit flowers in the search for food. While doing so they also transfer pollen from flower to flower and plant to plant. Without this process, chances of setting fruit are low to nil for many species in today’s edibles garden.

Pollinators are the workhorses of not just home gardens and landscapes, but also the millions of acres of farms in the U.S. They are responsible for one in every three bites of food Americans eat each day. For those who grow their own food, that number could be even larger during the growing season. The key to a bountiful harvest is encouraging the many species of pollinators to visit the garden, and to visit often.

Attracting Pollinators to the Edibles Garden

Attracting pollinators to the edibles garden requires deliberate actions on the part of the gardener. Here are a few suggestions for increasing the chances they’ll make a stop—and keep visiting throughout the season:

  1. Plant flowers near edibles. With a few exceptions, vegetable plants don’t have the bright and showy flowers that pull in passing pollinators. Native flowering perennials and shrubs will be familiar and attractive to local pollinators. Annual flowers such as marigolds, zinnias and sunflowers are also pollinator favorites. Check with your local garden center for suggestions for the best pollinator-attracting plants for your area.
  2. Plant in groups. Choose one type of flower and plant them in a group covering 10 sq. ft. or more, increasing the chances pollinators will see them and drop in for a visit.
  3. Find the best location. Make the flower plantings suitable for pollinators by situating them in a sunny place with minimal disturbance from wind and foot traffic.
  4. Provide shelterEncourage pollinators to live nearby so they visit often. Beehives are just one option. Many pollinator species create tunnels and nests underground or in trees. Leave a patch of bare ground for pollinators to dig nests, and provide a wood block drilled with small holes for those tunneling insects.

The Pollinator Challenge

The National Pollinator Garden Network has created the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge which encourages Americans to plant and register 1 million pollinator gardens by the end of 2016. From window boxes to expansive landscapes, community plots to patio tomatoes, every garden that is planted with pollinators in mind gives honeybees, butterflies, bumblebees and others a chance to thrive.

The National Pollinator Garden Network is led by the national gardening and habitat organizations American Public Gardens Association,, National Wildlife Federation and Pollinator Partnership and is joined by the horticulture industry organizations AmericanHort, American Seed Trade Association, Home Garden Seed Association, and National Garden Bureau, with significant support from network partner GrowIt! mobile. These organizations believe that helping our nation’s pollinator species survive and build their populations and contribute to our food system is a responsibility all Americans share. The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge has three simple steps for gardeners:

  1. Plant for pollinators
  2. Register your garden
  3. Keep the challenge growing

Join the cause at

For more information, contact Diane Blazek at the National Garden Bureau by email.

Founded in 1920, the National Garden Bureau is a non-profit organization whose mission is to disseminate basic instructions for backyard gardeners and those who want to garden, that will inspire them to spend more time outdoors, enjoying all nature has to offer. 

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