How to Create a Pollinator Garden
LESLIE: So do you want a garden that not only looks good but also serves an important purpose? Well, there are a lot of species out there – including bees, hummingbirds and butterflies – that play a big role in plant reproduction.
TOM: Yep. They’re actually called “pollinators” and they’re incredibly important to life here on Earth. So, it’s equally important that we give these creatures a place to carry out their good work. Here to tell us how to do just that, by building a pollinator garden, is This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.
ROGER: Thanks for having me.
TOM: So, Roger, what makes building a pollinator garden so different than just, say, planting flowers?
ROGER: Well, you’re planning on feeding plants for the whole summer.
ROGER: And what we’re doing is we’re using different varieties of plant to do that. Not only varieties of plants but we’re using different colors and different shape flowers.
TOM: Now, do you match the plants with what you’re trying to support? So, for example, if you wanted to encourage butterflies, would you choose one type of plant over another to do that?
ROGER: Yes. You would know certain plants for butterflies are key. Like right now, there’s a problem with the monarch butterfly. And one of the keys to their habitat is milkweed. In fact, we went to Texas and Ask This Old House and we planted a butterfly garden. And the milkweed was the key of the whole garden, to get those plants. And it felt great to do something to help that population come back.
LESLIE: Now, what are the benefits of having a pollinator garden in your yard? Is it just because you’re supporting these local species or is it because you’re getting the beauty of all the flowers?
ROGER: All of the above. You’ve got to envision the yard without any of these plants. And then now you put these plants in and all of a sudden, you have butterflies, you have hummingbirds, you have things that will pollinate your garden for you with all these bees and other things coming by. It’s very important.
LESLIE: And I think the trickiest part – because I’ve attempted to do this. I’ve always looked at these beautiful planting magazines and catalogs and you want to create a garden that’s going to grow seasonally or throughout the season. How do you know how to plant things that are going to stagger appropriately throughout the season?
ROGER: Well, this is really a hot item right now. So a lot of the garden centers have displays set up with pollinators in them. There’s websites like Pollinator.org you can go to. And one of the keys that they’ll tell you is to use native plants, because they’re the ones that’ll spread through the season the longest.
TOM: So these are plants that are natural to your particular area, not plants that are imported, so to speak?
ROGER: Right. We want to target certain things, like we talked about the monarch. Then we have to have that milkweed. That’s the key.
TOM: So we’ve talked about insects that we want to target, ones that we want to welcome into our yard. What about insects we don’t want to welcome like, say, mosquitoes?
ROGER: You don’t like mosquitoes?
TOM: No. Not in Jersey.
ROGER: Well, you have to remember that mosquitoes are only attracted to stagnant water. They’re not going to be in anything where the water’s moving at all. So if you can have something near a little pump to agitate the water, that’ll keep the mosquitoes away. And if you have an urn or some sort of small bowl that has water – and a couple of goldfish will really help you cut down on that mosquito problem.
LESLIE: I love butterflies. Who doesn’t?
TOM: That’s right.
LESLIE: You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you on PBS by AZEK Deck, Trim and Pavers. AZEK, engineered to last beautifully.