Planting a native pollinator garden provides rewards beyond the usual attractive plants. You will be providing food for native insects, birds and animals; absorbing water run off; sequestering carbon; saving water by watering less once the plants are established; and building healthy soil. In addition to all of that, it’s fun! It’s exciting to see the different bees, butterflies and moths visiting your plants.
Did you know that kids today see 35% fewer butterflies than their parents did forty years ago? You can start taking steps today to transition your yard into a more pollinator-friendly area: Avoid using pesticides and herbicides. This includes spraying for mosquitoes and using Roundup for weeds. Spraying for mosquitoes kills more than mosquitoe.
Reduce your lawn and use that space to create native plantings. Native choices include trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers. Commit to making new plantings Arkansas natives. Aim for 70% native plants in your space. Educate yourself on which plants serve as host plants for butterflies and begin adding those. Oak trees host more types of caterpillars than anything else you could plant so Hillcrest residents already have a head start.
Choose a variety of plants so that you have spring, summer and fall blooms. If you are interested in supporting Monarch butterflies, then focus on fall bloomers along with milkweed. Arkansas sees more Monarchs in the fall than spring. Do your best to eradicate non-native invasives, such as wisteria, English ivy, nandina, bamboo, privet, Bradford pears and vinca. Purchase your Arkansas native plants from a knowledgeable grower who knows that the plants have not been treated with nionicotinoids. Native plants are available for purchase at the Hillcrest Farmers Market during peak planting times.
Avoid disturbing your soil. Reduce your use of wood mulch by planting native ground covers and spacing your natives close together. Leave as much leaf matter on the ground as possible. These steps improve soil health and provide habitat for pollinators.
Minimize lighting in your gardens to allow pollinators and birds to observe their natural rhythms.
There are many resources available to help you learn more about enhancing your yard’s ecosystem. For starters check out Arkansas Audubon, Arkansas Native Plant Society, Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, Xerces Society, Dr. Doug Tallamy, Benjamin Vogt, Arkansas Wild Spaces and National Wildlife Federation.