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Thursday, May 23, 2024
Growing Together: The importance of pollinators
Plants placed and ready to go at the Newark Park Community Garden. JOANNE YOUNG

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of helping to install a pollinator garden for the Newark Park Community Gardens on Niven Road, near Lakeshore Road and just outside Old Town. 

Last year was this community garden’s first year up and running. They rent out garden plots to anyone interested in growing, mainly vegetables.

Last fall, Julian Trachsel, coordinator for the gardens, approached the Niagara-on-the-Lake Horticultural Society to see if they would be willing and able to help them with a special project: implementing a pollinator garden to help attract bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects essential to optimum vegetable production.

Of course, the Horticultural Society was excited to be a part of the planning of the garden. It donated the plants and had some volunteers help them with the planting of the garden.

Over the last few years, we have been hearing, from many different sources, about the importance of attracting pollinators to our gardens.

With a sharp decline in the number of honeybees year after year, it is becoming increasingly critical we do what we can to protect them.

It isn’t only the honeybees (which are not native to Ontario), though, that are in decline. It is such a bigger problem than that.

Honeybees are getting most of the attention because they are the one bee we all recognize. But, did you know that there are at least 400 species of bees native to Ontario alone and over 800 species across Canada?

More and more bee species are being added to the threatened species list all the time, and bees are not the only insect that pollinate flowers.

There are so many insects that we rely on: wasps, moths, butterflies, flies and hummingbirds are just a few of the important pollinators.

So, why is attracting pollinators to your garden so important? Did you know that at least 75 per cent of the food we consume has been pollinated at some point? 

To put it another way, three out of every four bites of food that you eat depends on pollination. That is a staggering figure.

We are totally reliant on all these hard little workers for the very food we eat. Speaking with the gardeners at the Newark Park Community Garden shows how important pollinators are.

The gardens are located in such a beautiful park area surrounded by trees. It truly is a lovely spot. But, with very few flowers in the nearby area, it is not an area where there are a lot of pollinators.

Some gardeners mentioned to me that this past year the vegetable plants seem to have had a lot of flowers but very little fruit produced.

The reason, simply put, is that the flowers were not being pollinated. By adding a garden full of flowering plants, it will significantly help to attract the pollinators needed for a bounty of produce.

Planting native species is the best way to attract pollinating insects and birds. Native plants are those that occur naturally in a region in which they evolved.

Not only do native plants attract pollinators, but they are the ecological basis upon which life depends, including birds and people.  They provide the nectar that the pollinators depend upon to survive.

Does this mean that you must rip out all your plants and only plant native flowers? Of course not! Start small.

Looking to fill a gap in your garden? Consider planting a native species. Starting a garden from scratch? Check out the native choices and make sure to plant a few of them.

If we all added five native species to our gardens, it would make a world of difference.  

Here are some of the perennials that we planted this past Saturday at the Newark Park Community Gardens: liatris (gay feather), eupatorium (Joe Pye weed), rudbeckia (black-eyed Susans), agastache (anise hyssop), echinacea (coneflower), Monarda (bee balm), rabidita (prairie coneflower), gaillardia (blanket flower), prairie smoke geum (avens), pennisetum (beard tongue), asclepias (butterfly weed) and panicum (switch grass).

So, let’s do our part and consider planting some of these plants in our own gardens. It’s such a small thing to do that will have lasting rewards.

Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca

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