This year, the Great Georgia Pollinator Census will be held on August 20th and 21st. For more information about our local pollinators and instructions on how to participate, visit: https://ggapc.org/
Bees, butterflies, moths, flies, and other insects all play a vital role in our environment: pollinators. Pollinator insects are responsible for the success of many of our vegetable and fruit crops, as well as the reproduction of many ornamental plants. However, the frequent use of insecticides in our environment has led to the decline of these vital insects. Homeowners can help by creating pollinator gardens in their own yards that provide shelter and food for bees and butterflies.
While many people have heard of pollinator gardens, establishing a small meadow strip in their yard can not only provide a food source for these important insects but can also provide habitat for small wildlife and beautify your yard. Wildflower meadows typically have a variety of textures and can include grasses, perennials, annuals, and small shrubs, depending on size.
Site: Full sun is best. Consider how much sunlight hits your desired area throughout the day. What about the drainage and soil type?
Preparation: Proper site preparation is likely the most important step to success. In order to successfully establish wildflowers from seed, we will need to remove any existing vegetation and destroy and remaining weed seed in the soil. This can be achieved through sod removal, mowing, and solarizing your plot. Some tough weeds may need herbicides to be fully controlled. The seed bed should be free of large dirt clods and can be gently smoothed and firmed up.
Plant Selection: It is important to do your research before planting. Regional native seed blends can be purchased from several online retailers. However, plants labeled as native may not necessarily be native to your state or micro-climate. You will also want to consider bloom time and make selections that will bloom at different times throughout the season to ensure a constant supply of flowers. Grasses should also be considered since many insects use them as a site for eggs and overwintering.
Planting Time: In the Southeast, perennial and annual wildflower seeds are best planted in the fall (Nov- Feb). Some species require a period of cool temperatures and wet conditions to properly germinate and establish. Broadcast seeding, either by hand or through a hand crank seeder, can be an effective method of planting. A light layer of straw can be placed on top of a seeded site.
Maintenance: During the first year and establishment, mowing can be a beneficial tool to reduce weeds by preventing them from seeding. Watering should not be necessary unless drought conditions are experienced. Debris should be cleaned up in the spring.
For more detailed steps and information on creating a pollinator meadow at home, check out this guide from NRCS: