Hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators don’t just add beauty to our gardens–they play an invaluable role in producing food! Pollinators help pollinate many vegetable crops which provide us with sustenance.
Planting flowers around and among your vegetables is an easy way to attract pollinators bees and butterflies. Be sure to offer a wide range of colors and shapes in order to attract all pollinator types.
1. Plant a Variety of Flowers
When planting a vegetable garden, flowers don’t have to be an either/or proposition – adding flowers is actually an excellent way to attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds – providing nectar and pollen that they require as well as providing other benefits for your garden itself.
Flowers can help the roots of vegetables to remain healthy by attracting predatory insects that prey upon pests that damage them, exuding scents that repel damaging nematodes, or providing oxygenation of soil aeration via their root systems – this all can benefit all parties involved!
When selecting flower varieties, choose those that attract a wide range of pollinators – hummingbirds often prefer tubular flowers while bees prefer round blooms. Also make sure some night blooming varieties exist, in order to attract moths at night. Ultimately, when planting your flowers together in groups for optimal results – making life easier for pollinators! – this makes blooming easier.
2. Provide a Source of Water
If your vegetable garden is producing fruits and vegetables without yielding harvest, but not producing an ample harvest, pollinators could be to blame.
Pollinators are attracted to flowers that provide easy access to pollen and nectar, while also serving as potential nesting or hibernation spots. You can make your garden an oasis for pollinators by providing food, water, and shelter.
As pollinators are attracted by various shapes, colors and fragrances of plants blooming both spring and fall, the best way to attract pollinators populations is to cultivate an assortment of spring- and fall-blooming blooms with various shapes, colors and fragrances that attract various species of pollinators.
Plant companion plants such as chives, dill, oregano and sage near vegetables to repel damaging insects while also drawing pollinators in. Native wildflowers also provide pollination services and tend to thrive well in your local climate. Leave areas of bare ground, dead branches or leaf piles as shelter for pollinators during winter; when possible try using non-chemical options or spraying at dusk when pollinators are less active.
3. Create a Nesting Area
Buzzing bees, fluttering butterflies, and zipping hummingbirds are not only fascinating to observe; they also play an essential role in supporting life on Earth. Without pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds there would not be cucumbers for your salad, berries in yogurt, apples in pie and cucumbers in salad! To support their existence plant flowers near and in your vegetable garden.
Plant flowers that provide different food and shelter options for pollinators. Hummingbirds tend to favor long, tubular-shaped blooms while butterflies prefer flat-topped clustered blossoms2.
Consider planting local native species too – these have evolved alongside pollinators and are well adapted to local soils, climate conditions and growing seasons.
Bumblebees are invaluable pollinators of nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants and peppers) as well as fruit trees (apples and pears). When planting for this pollination type, plant sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds and cosmos in clusters to attract them – they especially enjoy vetch, lupine and wildflower mixes!
4. Create a Bee Bath
Create a bee bath in your vegetable garden to attract pollinators like bees that play such an important role in pollination of fruits, vegetables and flowers (they pollinate approximately one-third of our food!) Bees provide pollination services at no cost!
To create your own bee bath, find a spot in your garden which is protected and shady, then place an upside-down shallow dish or plant pot containing water mixed with pebbles (or rocks, shells, sticks or marbles), so bees can rest while sipping their drink.
Add some salt to the water for flavoring purposes, or flowers such as violet or deep indigo hued blooms to attract bees and other pollinators. Bees in particular love blues and purples so by including these hues in their bee bath, you are certain to attract bees as pollinators visitors!
Hummingbirds also adore bee baths! You can attract these captivating birds by planting foxglove, canna lilies and trumpet vines as these will not only look gorgeous but will help pollinate vegetables and fruits as well.
5. Plant in Big Batches
Pollinators bring color and vibrancy to any garden, while playing an indispensable role in its success. Bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators help plants produce seeds and fruit which birds and mammals eat later on.
Pollinators can be attracted by growing flowers they enjoy. Bright colors and strong scents will entice them, and they will visit various flowers to gather nectar and pollen from each one. Aim to grow white, yellow, blue and purple blooms for bees/wasps while growing purple/pink/red ones for hummingbirds.
Plant flowers together, especially in groups of three or five, to resemble natural planting patterns and provide pollinators with an easily accessible location. When planted close together, pollen grains from one flower’s anther can easily travel from pistil to anther transferring the gene necessary for reproduction to another flower’s pistil allowing pollination of both flowers in an efficient fashion.
Keep some vegetables and herbs blooming to benefit pollinators as well. Basil is known to attract bees when left to bloom freely; try planting it alongside tomatoes, radishes and lettuce, calendula with squash or nasturtiums with cucumbers and carrots as companions!
6. Keep the Soil Well-Drained
Maintaining well-draining soil is crucial to both the health of your vegetables and flowers, and to attracting pollinators. One effective method of doing this is using organic matter to amend the soil, helping it drain slowly and evenly while simultaneously helping your plants absorb all the necessary water, while simultaneously helping prevent puddling and reduce pesticide leaching into water supplies.
Planting native flowers and herbs like basil, chives, dill, fennel, nasturtiums and yarrow can help attract pollinators to your garden. Not only are these ideal companions for beans, squash and cucumbers – be sure to deadhead as soon as the blooms fade to encourage more blooms from them and extend their longevity!
Many pollinators are nearsighted, so the vibrant colors of flowers serve as beacons to draw them in. Likewise, try planting your vegetables in large groups rather than rows – this makes it easier for pollinators eyes to locate them!
7. Water Slowly
Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds may make for stunning sights in our gardens, but these pollinators do more than beautify it – they play a critical role in food security – without them there wouldn’t be tomatoes on our plates, cucumbers in salads or apples on dessert trays!
Pollinators seek out blooming plants with easily accessible pollen and nectar sources, like blooming perennials that bloom year-round, in order to attract as many pollinators as possible. A rainbow of colors should attract bees of various kinds while adding in plants like penstemon (aka beard tongue), salvia coccinea and liatris or butterfly weed.
Water your vegetable garden slowly and deeply to avoid overhead sprinklers that can irritate foliage or cause fungal diseases, as these could irritate and stress out plants further. Establish a schedule so you only water when plants show signs of stress – 1 to 3 times per week should do the trick, depending on soil type and rainfall conditions.
8. Build a Bee Hotel
Bee hotels are an effective and fun way to attract solitary bees to your garden, and are great projects to tackle with kids. Beech reeds work best, though blocks of untreated wood with holes drilled at various diameters also work. Just avoid new, pressure-treated lumber as its chemicals will deter bees.
Be sure to inspect the bee hotel carefully to make sure there are no splinters in its entry holes, even though this may seem inconsequential to us; but even one splinter could prove fatal for a native bee species.
Avoid cardboard, paper and glass tubes when creating bee hotels to reduce mold growth and parasitism (Dicks et al. 2010; Fye 1965). Instead use these materials to line drilled blocks or grooved boards instead – always opt for organic pesticides in your vegetable garden to protect bees that may otherwise be endangered by synthetic sprays!