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How Does Pollination Work?

If you took a grade six science and biology class, you probably have a fundamental grasp on pollination and know it basically refers to the transfer of pollen from one location to another.

Most people realize that pollination is vital for a healthy garden. Still, many folks aren’t exactly sure just what, specifically, the process means, who does it, and why it plays such an important role in nature generally, and in your garden specifically. You may be one of those people who are unsure, but not to worry — I can help clear away the scientific jargon and put it in simple terminology you will easily understand.

You, as a gardener, by definition have an interest in protecting the environment; after all, growing your own beautiful flowers, or fruits and vegetables, is one of the single best things you can do to contribute to a healthy planet.

But what is pollination? What creatures perform it, and how can you encourage them to visit your garden?

Below is a simple guide to pollination and all you need to know about getting insects to help in spreading seeds, and thereby help fertilizer the earth and make your plants thrive and multiply You’ll realize that this crucial part of natural reproduction isn’t hard to understand at all. And I’ve put it in terms your sixth-grade science teacher may not have — no jargon, guaranteed!

Everything we enjoy about the bounty of gardens and farmers’ crops — the fruit on our cereal each morning, the carrots we snack on mid-afternoon, and even the cotton we love to wear on a warm summer’s day, owes a large debt to the pollinators. We owe it to them to learn about their habits, life cycles, nesting habits and ideal conditions for thriving so that we give back to the pollinators who do all that work for us.

Bees Are the Best Pollinators.

Bees of all sorts are the chief pollinators, which are why when they are threatened, by habitat loss or chemical sprays, the entire cycle of growth and re-population of plant species can be jeopardized. A thriving bee population — honey bees, bumblebees, and others — is critical to thriving crops of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

There are other pollinators in nature, including some moths, butterflies, wasps, certain kinds of beetles and of course hummingbirds. All these species carry pollen, which is rather like fine dust, from one flower to another on their legs, and when they land on a new plant they drop the pollen; therefore the plant can reproduce. The whole cycle is truly a miracle of nature, and it’s up to us, as gardeners, to do all we can to help these pollinators thrive.

I have some ideas about how you and your garden can help foster booming numbers of pollinators. Here are my suggestions for establishing a garden that’s a pollinator’s dream.

How to Create a Pollinator’s Paradise?

There are plenty of things you can do to encourage pollinators into your garden, and plenty of ways you can provide them with places to rest, deposit pollen and even spend the winter. These are all fairly simple, economical tips for making your garden an appealing place for pollinators of all types.

  1. Plant lots of native species. Buying too many ornamental plants that may not be a strong source of pollen isn’t the way to attract bees and other species. Dedicate at least a section of your garden to wildflowers that pollinators love, and plant them in bunches, so bees and other creatures have lots of places to land and not feel threatened. Never pick wildflowers while you’re on a hike, however; that just contributes to habitat loss. Buy seeds from a nursery, or an already established plant, and soon you’ll see bees and other pollinators flocking to your garden.
  2. Choose a sunny, sheltered location for it. When you plant your pollinator’s garden, choose a spot that is out of strong winds but one that gets lots of warm sun. Plant clusters of wildflowers or simply let this area go wild with native grasses and other plants — the pollinators will love you for it.
  3. Quench their thirst. Every creature gets thirsty, not just the ones we spy drinking in our garden, like birds. Putting up a birdbath, or simply filling a shallow bowl with water and putting some half-visible stones in it gives pollinators a place to perch while they drink.
  4. Consider leaving a little leaf litter in your garden over the winter. Everyone these days has an inclination to rake up every last leaf that falls in autumn. But you will be doing the pollinators a big favour if you leave some leaf litter on the ground in the garden. Doing this provides them with shelter from the cold, and some bees will spend the entire winter there, out of the weather’s way. When they burst forth in spring and start pollinating your plants, you’ll be glad you did. Besides, it provides extra nourishment for the soil, so leaving the leaves is a good thing to do, for both the environment and the pollinators.
  5. Never use harsh sprays and other insecticides. You likely know this already, but it bears repeating: many bee species are at risk today because of all the years’ folks spent spraying harsh chemicals into their gardens and crops. If you have pests in yours, use a homegrown, safe solution to wash plants, or just pick off the offending invaders and control infestations that way. Better yet, get a bird feeder put up close by and let them do a lot of the work for you! Birds will gladly munch on all kinds of critters that you consider pests, like caterpillars.
  6. Plant flowers, trees, shrubs and bushes that bloom for months. Providing pollinators with nectar from early spring until late autumn doesn’t just provide pollinators with a steady supply of nectar, it’s great for the visual appeal of your garden. When you purchase flowers and plants from your local nursery, be sure to read up on the blooming season.
    Aim to have blooms from late April until late September. That gives pollinators lots of nectar for many months and also provides them with places to rest and nest all season long.
  7. And remember that your lawn can help too. If you have an area with plenty of grass, consider adding some clover. Clover provides pollinators with an extra source of nectar, the liquid gold they need and use when they’re transferring pollen from one plant to another.

Pollinators are one of nature’s best gifts, and you should do all you can in your garden to foster their wellbeing and the work that they do.

The health of your garden, and the robustness of our food supply, is largely dependent on these industrious creatures. Shouldn’t we all help them along, doing our part to help them thrive and get on with the business of pollinating our flowers and plants? Of course, we should!

I hope this guide to pollination and the bees and other insects that do it so conscientiously on our behalf has been helpful and given you lots of idea for a pollinator-attracting garden of your own.  And there’s not a confusing scientific word or phrase anywhere in sight, just as I promised!

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Amit Kumar