Friday, January 11, 2013

How Do You Create A Pollinator Garden?: by Tom Butzler

The general public has been exposed to the plight of pollinator decline through extensive media attention over the past several years.  As a result, homeowners have taken steps to help by planting annuals, perennials, and woody ornamentals that serve as food and habitat. 
Not all homeowners have the knowledge to create a favorable and eye-pleasing pollinator garden and Penn State has stepped in with lots of good information.  A group of fact sheets, the Pennsylvania Pollinator Series, details much of what is need to create a landscape suited for pollination (links to the Pollinator Series are at the end of the blog article).  

Pennsylvania Pollinator Series: Pollinator Food, gives some nice lists of perennials and woody ornamentals that provide food for pollinators plus their ornamental qualities.  In addition, there is a nice example of planting for a sequence of blooms.  Nesting habitat is just as important as food and Pennsylvania Pollinator Series: Pollinator Nesting Habitat talks about landscape practices that encourage pollinators to stay and reproduce in your yard.  There are several other fact sheets that give useful information as it pertains to pollinators. 

While the fact sheets are very informative, it is missing one key component - how do you take this information and create a beautiful landscape?  A listing of plants means nothing unless you can incorporate them into a grand design.  For some, it is difficult to work with the abundance of colors, textures, specific growth requirement (light, moisture, etc.), and growth patterns.  Not everyone is artistic nor do they have the ability, time, or equipment to take a blank canvas (the outside yard) and create an eye pleasing landscape.  The Green Industry knows this and is playing a role in pollinator gardens by helping customers design and install pollinator gardens.  This has been a way for some companies to distinguish themselves from their competition but also to add yet another type of service to their offerings. 

Some homeowners and landscapers are taking another step with the pollination issue; placing honeybees into the backyard setting.  Homeowners want pollinators and are fascinated with the working of the honeybee.  In production agricultural, honeybees are heavily utilized to pollinate many of our fruits and vegetables.  Not only does the backyard gardener want fresh produce but they also fancy the idea of local honey. 

This growing interest in beekeeping is also an area that Penn State is addressing.  They have produced a number of beekeeping fact sheets that are housed on-line at the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (a group of Land Grant universities of which Penn State is one of) describing equipment, practices, and biology. 

Penn State Extension along with Penn State Public Broadcasting have brought many of those fact sheets to life with an innovative course; Beekeeping 101.  This has many videos detailing how to do certain procedures such as installing package bees and conducting sugar rolls.  It also invites the user to interact with the material through simulated activities, self-assessments, and discussion boards.  More information can be found at 
Information on Pollinators in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Pollinator Series: Pollinator Friendly Garden (pdf)
Pennsylvania Pollinator Series: Gardening for Pollinators (pdf)
Pennsylvania Pollinator Series: Pollinators and Their Threats (pdf)
Pennsylvania Pollinator Series: Pollinator Food (pdf)
Pennsylvania Pollinator Series: Animal Pollinated Plants and Their Importance (pdf)
Pennsylvania Pollinator Series: Manmade Bee Nests (pdf)
Pennsylvania Pollinator Series: Pollinator Nesting Habitat (pdf)
Pennsylvania Pollinator Series: Hymenoptera Stings (pdf)



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