Pollinators in the garden, like bees, birds, and butterflies, visit flowers for selfish purposes. They’re looking for a meal, but what they also do is carry pollen from one plant to the next. While some plants are self-pollinating, many require wind or pollinators to do the job—and even those that self-pollinate benefit from pollination helpers. If you have a vegetable garden, consider putting plants in your flower beds that will draw these pollinators to your yard and get a greater yield.
How Pollinators Help Vegetable Gardens
For a plant to produce a fruit, it needs to be pollinated. This process allows the flower to develop into the fruit. If no pollination occurs, fruit won’t set. Some vegetables self-pollinate or don’t need pollinators at all because we don’t eat the fruits. These include greens, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, root vegetables, celery, and onions. Peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, and squashes don’t strictly need pollinators to develop their fruits.
Cucumbers, melons, berries, and most fruit trees do require pollinators to set fruit. If you don’t have enough birds and bees coming into your garden, these fruits may not set, or your yield may be limited. Even for those that don’t need pollinators, it is useful to attract the helpers as they can improve the overall yield.
Create a Mixed Pollinator Garden
There are several ways to encourage pollinators in your garden. One easy way to do it is to order a pre-planned garden, or a garden in a box. These are gardening products that include all the perennial plants you need, as well as instructions, a garden map, and growing tips to help you create a specific type of garden or bed.
For attracting pollinators, try a bird garden. A garden designed to attract birds is great for birdwatchers, but it also brings in pollinators. Birds in the yard help move pollen as they fly to different plants. Many of the flowering plants in this garden will also attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies to promote even more pollination.
Use Wildflowers to Draw in Pollinators
Another great idea for encouraging pollinating insects and birds is to plant a wildflower garden. Bees and other pollinators are drawn to flowers and use them for feeding, transferring pollen as they do so. The most successful wildflower garden is one that includes plants native to your region. You can find seed mixes that are specific to certain regions, such as the northeastern states, Pacific Northwest, and Midwest.
Pollinators Love Vegetable and Fruit Gardens Too
Attracting pollinators to benefit your vegetable garden doesn’t have to be limited to the other areas of the yard. There are certain vegetables that you can grow which will also attract bees and other pollinating helpers. Kale, for instance, is a beloved plant for bees. Dwarf Vates kale is a great fall variety that tastes sweet after the frost. Plant it to enjoy in the kitchen, but also let some bolt (produce blooms). The flowers are pretty and will draw in more bees. Pollinators also love squash and melon flowers, berry bushes, tomatoes, and fruit trees (like apple, pear, and cherry).
Encouraging pollinators in the garden is good for the local environment and supports declining bee populations, but it is also a good move for your vegetable yield. Try some of these ideas to improve the natural health and viability of your yard and garden.