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This article was a guest post on my Earthly Gardener blog this week.  Debbie Burns gardens at the Beulah Land farmstead in north Texas.  Her article has an important message and lots of useful information on designing and planting pollinator gardens.  Happy trails from Texas!  bobbi c.

Pollinator Gardens

by Debbie Burns, Beulah Land Farm

When we decided to convert to Wild Life Conservation for our land Ag Exemption we had no idea how much it would impact our lives.  One of our goals was to create Pollinator Gardens to feed and nourish all kind of pollinators, not just butterflies or hummingbirds.

Since there is no water source in our pastures we wanted to test the Pollinator Garden idea in our yard, convenient to the water spigot with easy access for maintenance. We designed one in the front, the South Pollinator Garden, and one on the side, the West Pollinator Garden. Again, these were test gardens so we decided to not spend a lot in set up. We had some old landscape timbers – yes, I know they’re not food safe by any means, but they were already here and paid for – to edge the gardens and hold down landscape fabric or cardboard.

The West Pollinator Garden

 We used the cardboard to mulch around the plants, on wet ground, then added pine bark mulch on top to make it look better. Surrounding the garden area I have a width of landscape fabric with stepping stones to hold it down. This was to prevent the yard Bermuda from taking over the garden area. So far that has worked well.  I still need to put pine bark mulch on top of the landscape fabric but that has fallen to the bottom of the budget list. Since this is the first year for the plants I’ve had to water them regularly. I’m hoping that won’t be needed next year as their root system grows.

The West Pollinator Garden showing walkway around the perimeter

I purchased the plants for the South Pollinator Garden – butterfly bush (which was the only one that died), yarrow, esperenza, orange lantana, tansy, white salvia, Purple Homestead verbena, lemon verbena, achillea Pink and two stevia herb plants. Even thought these plants are labeled for full sun, they haven’t done as well as the same plants in the West garden that gets partial shade.

A friend invited me over to dig from her native plant collection. On her recommendation I purchased the Native Texas Plants book, which is fantastic. Most of her plants went into the West Pollinator Garden – daylily, lantana, salvia, sensitivity plant. I also purchased German chamomile and blue salvia that is outdoing itself in there.

I transplanted zinnias I  seeded inside, but the self-seeded zinnia from last year out-did all the other plants in attracting the hummingbirds and butterflies to the West Garden. The hummingbirds flit from the flowers to the feeder hanging close-by on the clothes pole.

South Pollinator Garden

So how did these two simple gardens change our lives?  It’s amazing how much time we spend watching the birds and butterflies zoom in and out around the gardens---especially the West garden with those bright red zinnias. At one time we counted eight hummingbirds buzzing around and we’ve seen swarms of butterflies hovering over the flowers. Wasps and mud daubers come to dig in the mud to build their nests.

The South Pollinator Garden has a shallow dish to supply water for the pollinators also.

South Pollinator Garden

As we’ve sat at the kitchen table, looking out on the West Pollinator Garden, we’ve seen so many different colors of hummingbirds, butterflies and dragonflies. We’ve also seen blue birds, cardinals, swallows and many other birds come up to our yard that have not been there in prior years. We didn’t realize the Pollinator Gardens would draw up so many different types of birds.

Swing beside the West Pollinator Garden

 We’ve found we’re enjoying our yard so much more than in past years, spending time on the porch swing beside the West Garden or walking out tending the plants in both gardens. I guess the Pollinator Gardens have drawn us up to them as well!

Copyright 2012 by Debbie Burns, Beulah Land Farm

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