Bringing it home: Master gardener adds color to yard with pollinator habitat
RAYMOND - Daryl Anderson grew up on a farm where the garden had one purpose.
It kept the family supplied with fresh vegetables during the growing season, and lots of others to put away for the cold months ahead.
“You didn’t go to the grocery store to buy a lot of things,” said Anderson.
The gardening bug took a life-long hold on Anderson, but its purpose has changed. His garden and yard on a residential street in Raymond is a showcase of color and the importance today of providing habitat for pollinators.
Anderson is retired after 34 years as a senior high school math instructor in the MACCRAY School District. He has been a master gardener for 25 years through the University of Minnesota, Extension. He occasionally offers tips on pollinator-friendly gardening on a local radio show, offers classes through MACCRAY’s community education program, and gives demonstrations at the Kandiyohi County Fair.
“I have people just come up to me and ask questions,’’ said Anderson. Those questions have been increasing in the last 10 years. He said interest in pollinator-friendly gardening and landscaping has been increasing ever since the public learned about the colony collapse disorder that has adversely affected honeybees.
People are also aware that we are losing pollinator-friendly habitat in the countryside. Many are hoping to replace some of it by planting the habitat that pollinators need in their yards and gardens.
When it comes to pollinators, we’re not just talking about bees. A variety of insects, as well as birds and bats serve as pollinators.
No bat houses have been erected at the Anderson property, but there’s an array of colorful flowers blooming through the season. And that’s point number one, according to Anderson. It’s important to plant a sequence of flowering plants so there is a steady supply of nectar throughout the season.
The options are many, of course, from azilias to zinnias. Anderson likes to experiment with new plants each year.
He also recommends purchasing a guidebook- his favorite is “Pollinator Friendly Gardening” by Rhonda Fleming Hayes. She and others offer lists of flowering plants and the sequence in which they bloom.
Anderson said the author and others also publish lists identifying what plants are favored by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
He knows that common milkweed is a favorite for monarchs, and has added it as part of the mixture of flowering plants decorating his home.
A pollinator-friendly garden can still be a big producer in terms of vegetables. The flowering plants can benefit the veggies raised for the table. Marigolds help keep some plant-eating insects at bay, for example.
Anderson mixes lots of herbs, including basil, oregano and parsley into the mix, adding to the culinary rewards that come with gardening.
And, tomatoes, peppers and many other garden plants are by themselves “pollinator friendly” sources of flowers for insects.
One thing to keep in mind, according to Anderson, is to make sure a garden or yard includes a number of pollinator friendly plants. Bees aren’t going to do a dance for a single flower.
He tends to a 20-foot by 40-foot garden with raised beds, and has plantings alongside his home. Anderson also has planters placed about his property, each with a mixture of flowers, herbs and sometimes vegetables.
Along with providing food, pollinator friendly gardens offer both safety and a place for pollinators to call home. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a little mud or a messy corner in the garden, said Anderson. Some of our native bees are solitary, and burrow a small hole to call home.
He also fills a tin can or two with papers rolled to the diameter of a pencil. He keeps he cans above the ground, and points them to the southeast with the tips slanted downward to keep out rain. They are nurseries for mason bees.
Anderson also encourages gardeners to put in small, shallow pans holding water and pebbles. Butterflies drink from them. (Bird baths are too deep.)
The rewards of a pollinator-friendly garden and yard are obvious. Andeson said he enjoys the season-long show of color and activity from flowers and butterflies and other pollinators.
For Anderson, it also helps shrink the drudgery of a long Minnesota winter. His seed catalogues arrive the week before Christmas, giving him the pleasure of dreaming and planning for warmer days.
By March, he’s planting his first seeds indoors. He enjoys it all right up to freeze up, when he admits, he’s ready for a break.