To help the many pollinators that populate our gardens thrive, it's best to begin by understanding that monocultures are less than ideal for them all. A field of flowering canola may look like a honey bee’s paradise, but it’s not. When a single crop is grown across a vast swathe of land it can cause a range of problems for pollinators, including nutrient deficiencies and short bloom periods.
For these reasons and more, pollinators tend to do better in diversely planted urban and suburban areas than they do in farming country. To help them along, consider the following:
• Biodiversity: Many garden designers like to use a limited plant “palette”, and gardens focussing on foliage over flowers are all the rage. If you care about pollination, however, you’d be wise to buck such trends. Throw caution to the wind and use the most colourful, eccentric palette imaginable. Plant a mix of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Include species that provide shelter and nesting sites as well as food, introduce water into the garden, and pollinators will take up residence. Aim to have something in flower all year round.
• Avoid chemicals: Build it and they will come, scrap the chemicals and they will stay. It goes without saying that as organic gardeners, we ought to avoid synthetic pesticides at all costs. But we shouldn’t overlook the harm certified organic pesticides can do. Natural pyrethrum will kill some pollinating insects as effectively as a neonicotinoid. Use organic pesticides judiciously, always as a last resort after nature has had time to resolve any pest problems without intervention.
• Hives and sites: Offer support for specific pollinators by providing hives and other breeding sites. Stingless native bees are brilliant little pollinators in warm-temperate to tropical climates and their hives are assets to even the smallest garden. You might consider keeping honey bees, which thrive in diverse gardens. An insect hotel will provide nesting sites for wasps, solitary bees and other helpful insects while boxes for microbats, lorikeets and sugar gliders will help some of the lesser-known pollinators feel at home.
• Conserve wild areas: The other thing we need to support is conservation of wild areas, particularly national parks, but also natural corridors and unprotected bush remnants. Australia is a classic case of death by a thousand cuts when it comes to clearing of native forests but we’ve also lost thousands of wetlands, heathlands and grasslands to bulldozers and chainsaws. Habitat loss is a major reason why pollinators are under pressure. Perhaps you can join a local nature group or national conservation organisation. Some even buy back land to manage and protect.
To see what else is in the magazine, and read the rest of the article, get a copy of the latest issue of Organic Gardener Magazine Australia.
By: Justin Russell
First published: August 2019