Getting Started

Getting Started

Does your property consist of an empty green lawn and a button row of boxwoods, enveloped by English Ivy? You might not know it, but this desolate landscape is a food desert for most wildlife.

Insect populations plummet as wild areas are replaced with hardscaping, mulch and a limited number of non-native plants. Those insects are necessary to support birds and other animals higher up in the food chain. Traditional suburban lawn and garden practices don’t create a healthy habitat for native wildlife, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Even small changes on your property can make a significant difference for pollinators. Here are some tips on getting started:

  • Take a survey of what you already have. Buy a wildflower guide and note the native plants on your property. Identify any invasive vines, trees or perennials that should be removed. Notice the conditions of different areas of your property (sun/shade, wet/dry).
  • Add native trees and shrubs where you can. Large trees like oaks and willows can host larvae of a huge number of species. Smaller trees and shrubs feed birds, bees and butterflies.
  • Keep it simple and choose one small area to create a pollinator garden. Add plants that flower for each season, and use several plants of each species as bees often forage on one type of flower at a time.
  • Remember, keep it simple! You don’t have to replace everything at once, and it’s OK to keep some of your favorite hybrids and cultivars. Many flowers sold at garden centers do have some food value for pollinators. The key is to gradually add in native plants that can host their larvae, attracting more wildlife and allowing insects to complete their life cycle.

Resources for Native Plant Gardening

National Wildlife Federation Native Plant Finder: Enter your zip code and find plants growing in your region.

Xerces Society Pollinator-Friendly Plant Lists: And many more publications and resources for home gardeners and land managers.

National Pollinator Garden Network: Find lots of resources and join the million pollinator garden challenge.