As we sit down with family and friends to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal, we need to remember one out of every three bites of food we eat is there because of pollinators.
A list of just a few pollinated foods:
Cranberries-pollinated by over 40 native bees and bumblebees
Pumpkin-squash and gourd bees, bumblebees
Apples-honey bee, blue mason orchard bees
Cherry-solitary bees, bumblebees, honey bees
Raspberries-bees, bumblebees, flies
Coffee-bees and flies
Chocolate-bees and flies
Bumblebees pollinate pumpkins and cherries.
Rudbeckia flower heads provide food for birds in the winter.
Leave seed heads standing in the landscape over the winter. The dried seed heads of flowers like purple coneflower, Rudbeckia and sunflowers are nature’s birdfeeders. Junco and cardinals have been visiting the habitat and eating sunflower seeds. We have three squirrels that visit too. If you have pumpkins left over from a fall display, put them outside for wildlife. Squirrels and deer will be happy to feed on them.
This week our UNL Extension unit leader in Lancaster County Gary Bergman is retiring. We want to thank him for his years of leadership and support for creating the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. After Soni and I returned from attending BOW-Becoming an Outdoor Woman in the fall of 2012, we were inspired to build a structure for pollinators and beneficial insects. We approached Gary about this project, explained our idea and its educational value. As we looked over a possible location, it became clear that we had available space behind the Extension office. The area was large enough to plant a pollinator habitat too and Gary was immediately supportive of the idea. He encouraged us to develop a plan and share it with the Extension Board members. Along the way he has helped with design ideas and always encouraged us to expand our vision. We have been grateful for Gary’s support and the opportunity to create a habitat that is educational to people and beneficial to pollinators.
Gary helping with the first truck load of soil for the new habitat in May 2013.
Tiger lilies in my landscape that will be replaced with pollinator plants.
Your yard is a habitat. Many insects and animals live there even if you do not notice them. Consider planting more native plants for pollinators. Fall is a great time to evaluate your landscape and plan for next year. Take time to walk through your yard and evaluate each plant. For some of us that will take a while. While you are looking, ask yourself these questions. Is the plant healthy? Has it out grown its location? Do I have to use pesticides to keep it healthy and disease free? Is it a good pollinator plant? Is it invasive? Is it a water hog? Do I even like this plant? Where did that come from?
This spring, summer and fall I have asked myself these same questions as I walk through my landscape. I had a shrub that had a lot of winter damage. I removed it and was amazed at how it opened up the yard. It was in a prime, full sun location. In another part of the yard I have tiger lilies. Their pollen stains my clothes and I avoid them when they are blooming. These two areas will be planted with native perennials and other plants beneficial to our pollinators. I am still working on my list, but common milkweed and Culver’s root have already been planted. I know I need more early spring and early August blooming plants. It is important for pollinators to have plants blooming April through October. I am excited at the opportunity to plan these new garden areas and it will help me survive another cold Nebraska winter.
Common milkweed planted where I took out shrub that had severe winter injury.