Plentiful Pollinators


A few years ago I designed the Pollinator Garden Beds at our local community garden. The spot used to be a baseball field for a grade school. The soil was sand over compacted clay soil.  In other words, a hot mess.  My family and a few volunteers from the Master Gardener program at the University of Illinois Extension helped layout the design, amend the soil and put in perennials.  Half of the perennials were transplants from the gardens of fellow gardeners.

BEFORE . . . 

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There is a saying for new gardens, “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap.”  This is the third summer for our pollinator beds, and oh how they’ve leaped.  They have filled in so nicely that there is nearly no for mulch.

AND AFTER . . . 


There is a saying about newly planted garden beds. The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they Leap. ” This is actually the third summer for our Butterfly shaped Pollinator Beds. This is their Leap Year and they did not disappoint.

Leap Year in our Pollinator Flower Garden

The perennials are all natives so they’re accustomed to our weather, if not the soil. We added mushroom compost along with peat moss at the start, which binds sandy soil and loosens clay soil for proper water retention and drainage. We gave the new plants some organic fertilizer to help them until their roots were deep enough to make the best of the funky soil. Now, two years on, the beds no longer need any help from us humans. They’re nearly care free. The weeding is minimal because the plants have filled in so well. We only cut back the perennials in the spring to make way for new growth and dead head spent blooms when we feel like. In return, they attract every type of pollinator, which is just what the veggies in our little community garden need to


Every size bee and wasp filled the Joe Pye Weed, Coneflowers and Phlox. The Monarchs were every where, flitting from flower to flower. Three White Moths danced around each other competing for space on a single flower. The plants were noisy and alive with movement not coming from the breeze. It was a very happy place.

Simple DIY Butterfly Garden Ideas

You don’t have to go large scale to create a lively, colorful Butterfly (aka Pollinator) Garden. It can be as easy as adding one of your favorite Perennials to an existing bed in your yard, such as a purple Coneflower. You can add planters with annuals that pollinators love, such as dwarf Zinnias and Sweet Alyssum. When choosing the spot and the plant, choose a space where the plants will get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day and choose the sun loving plants. Planting flowers for pollinators is feeding the little buggers that will provide us with food. Bees pollinate our fruit trees and bushes, our squash and cucumbers, strawberries and tomatoes, and oh so much more. Give them a few flowers, and your garden will thank you.