Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pollinator Packs Coming Next Week! Time to Get Your Garden Ready!

by Andrea Yoder
Pollinator Packs

Last summer we published a series of articles in our vegetable newsletters entitled “The Silent Spring Series.”  We were prompted by the White House’s release of the National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, a move that has been regarded by many as a ground breaking step towards acknowledging and mobilizing action around rapidly declining pollinator populations within North America.  This document was created by the Pollinator Health Task Force which was formed in response to a Presidential Memorandum issued by President Obama to create a national strategy to address the issue of declining pollinator populations.

Pollinators are an important part of what we do at Harmony Valley Farm and we rely on birds, bees, bats, butterflies and more to pollinate crops and help keep pest populations under control. We enjoy having these creatures on our farm and in our fields.  Sadly, a very large part of the problem with declining pollinator populations is being caused by the extensive use of glyphosate, neonicotinoids and other pesticides across our nation.
At the end of our Silent Spring Series of articles, we found ourselves asking… “But what can we do to help?”  Well, one of the things we’ve done on our farm is plant wildflowers and prairie grasses in the areas around our fields and roadsides to provide appropriate habitat to support pollinators.

We’ve really enjoyed watching these areas grow and develop over the past few years and are in awe at the variety of pollinating creatures that are attracted to these plants.  But is this enough?  NO!  Inspired by the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, we decided we could take it one step further and encourage all of our members to participate in planting pollinator habitats as well!

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is a campaign to register a million public and private gardens and landscapes to support pollinators.  Right now they have registered 187,842 gardens, but we need to do our part to help them reach their goal.                                                                                                                                                                        Join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

So, here’s what we’ve done.  We have put together pollinator garden packs that contain a variety of wildflowers and prairie grasses.  They are growing nicely and are ready to be delivered to your CSA sites starting next week on Thursday, May 26.  We’ll deliver any remaining packs the following week on Thursday, June 2.  We wanted to give you a week or two to prepare your garden space so you are ready to plant your packs when you pick them up.

 As you consider your garden space, keep in mind that anything counts.  The plants contained in the pack are appropriate to plant in a space approximately 8’ x 10’.  All of the plants are perennial plants which means they will come back year after year.  You might want to consider putting a marker next to each plant so you know where you planted it and can watch for its return next spring.  If you don’t have garden space at your home or apartment, consider planting them in a community garden space or perhaps there’s a space at your workplace that you could use to establish a pollinator garden.  You can also plant each plant in an individual pot or planter box and keep them in a patio space or even on your balcony.  Once you’ve planted your garden space, don’t forget to register your garden with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.  (

The bottom line is planting a pollinator pack is a simple act that can have a big impact.  All of our simple acts can add up to be a great benefit in the end.  As Farmer Richard always says…. “I can’t change the world, but I can change my little corner of the world.

Here are pictures and descriptions of the different plants we included in the Pollinator Packs.  All of the plants we selected are native species grown from seed we purchased from Prairie Moon Nursery. These are some of the varieties that have done the best for us on our farm and have been very attractive to birds, bees and butterflies.  Each pack may vary a bit and may not include all of the plant varieties.

ANISE HYSSOP (Agastache foeniculum):  Grows to an average height of 3’ and produces long purple flowers from June through September.  It self-seeds readily and will often bloom in the first year.  You’ll be amazed at how many critters are attracted to this plant!  Best in areas with full sun or partially shaded.

WILD BERGAMOT (Monarda fistulosa):  Grows to an average height of 4’ and produces purple blossoms from July through September.  Best in areas with full sun or partially shaded.

LANCE-LEAF COREOPSIS (Coreopsis lanceolate):  Grows to an average height of 2’ and produces bright yellow, daisy-like flowers from May-August.  This flower is easy to grow and can form a large colony in a short period of time.  Best in full sun.

PURPLE CONEFLOWER (Echinacea purpurea):  Grows to an average height of 4’ and produces golden red to purple flowers July through September.  Will attract bees and butterflies.  Best in areas with full sun or partially shaded.

SWEET BLACK-EYED SUSAN (Rudebeckia subtomentosa):  Grows to an average height of 5’ and produces profuse, anise-scented yellow flowers from August through October.  Best in areas with full sun or partially shaded.

BUTTERFLY WEED (Asclepias tuberosa):  Grows to an average height of 2’ and produces orange blossoms from June through August.  Best in areas with full sun or partially shaded.

LITTLE BLUE STEM (Schizachyrium scoparium):  Grows to an average height of 3’ and develops a blue hue in summer and coppery-pink color after the first frost.  Does well in medium-dry gardens.

PURPLE LOVE GRASS (Eragrostis spectabilis):  Grows to an average height of 2’ and develops seedheads which bloom July through September in shades of light to bright purple.  Does well in a dry location.

We hope you have fun with this project and enjoy the experience of planting and caring for these special plants.  We’d like to do  a follow-up story next year to report on all of the successful pollinator gardens you have created. Let us know how things are going and send your pictures our way!


Pamela S said...

Love this! I think I have them identified correctly. :-)

Jocey said...

I can't wait! We already have some milkweed and lavender (a cold-tolerant type) planted in our yard and I'm excited to add these.

LLSchwartz said...

Will any of these plants be difficult to control once planted?

ShiteDad said...

Was very excited to get my pollinator packs today and had the spot in the yard waiting for the plants. Agree that it was a little hard to identify each plant (some were varying states of maturity) and the really young ones were tough to pull out of the plastic packs without damaging them. Optimistic they will do well and help our pollinators. Thanks Harmony Valley!

Unknown said...

Love this. Thank you.