What is pollination and why is it important?
Flowers, just like all other living things, need to reproduce to survive. Pollination is the name we give to this process. Pollen from a plant’s anthers (the male part of the flower) is transported to the stigma (the female part of the flower) by pollinators. The fertilised flower then produces fruit and seeds.
Pollination is a fundamental part of a stable and strong ecosystem; one in three bites of food depends on pollinators.
Bees are the most efficient pollinators. A single bee colony can pollinate 3 million flowers a day.
Did you know that this is why some bees buzz. Plants like tomatoes and blueberries only release their pollen through very small pores so bees bite the anthers and buzz to shake the pollen out of the flower.
Flowers in your garden have evolved to have different flowering times so there is less competition for pollinators throughout the year, also providing the pollinators with a continuous food supply. It is a reciprocal relationship and both flowers and plants need each other to survive.
The 7 main pollinators in your garden
- Bees: nectar provides bees the sugar needed to fly and the proteins are vital nutrients for larvae back at the hive. Bees visit a large variety of plants without discrimination.
- Beetles: the ‘mess and soil pollinators’. Beetles search lower hanging flowers such as magnolia in search of food or a mate.
- Butterflies: favour plants with flat leaves that they can land on. They also have the added advantage of being able to probe gently at the flower with their long proboscis (tongue). This allows them to pollinate on plants with narrow throats that conceal nectar, such as sunflowers.
- Flies: some are more similar to bees, others favour plants with strong odours or appearances similar to meat or dung. Such as dutchman’s pipe, pawpaw and viburnums.
- Hummingbirds: the long tongue of the hummingbird allows it to reach the nectar of tubular flowers such as bee balm and honeysuckle.
- Moths: often unnoticed in favour of their colourful counterparts butterflies, moths are often nocturnal, pollinating night-blooming flowers with sweet scents including four o’clocks, moonflowers and tobacco.
- Wind: grains, most nuts, and many trees are pollinated by the wind.
How can gardeners help pollination?
Pollinators need three things to survive; food, water, and shelter, therefore:
- Have plants in your garden that bloom all year round, this provides a constant source of food for your pollinators.
- Provide sources of water, such as a pond or a bird bath.
- If possible, have six hours (or as close to six hours as possible) of sunlight to help the flowering of your plants.
- Make your garden diverse: different colours, smells, shapes, and types of flowers will attract a multitude of pollinators that will encourage a busier ecosystem in your garden!
Top Tip: Use RocketGro’s Peat-Free Soil Improver at any time of the year to increase your soil biodiversity and take your garden to the next level. Made from broken-down maize, rye and grass and rich in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, this is a great starting point for every successful garden. This 100% organic, peat-free product encourages more worms, more bees, and other insects essential for good soil health. Purchase yours here.
How’s it growing? Make your garden pollinator-friendly all year round…
Early blooming plants such as bulbs and spring ephemerals provide food for pollinators after hibernation
- Pussy willow feed queen bees as they establish their colonies
- Crocuses are one of the first sources of pollen in the year and add a splash of colour to any garden. They have the added benefit of offering shelter for bumblebees overnight.
Peak times for pollinators, when their numbers are at their highest. Longer summer days permit more hours for pollination.
- Sainfoin produces nectar for short and long tongued pollinators. Long-lived and drought tolerant, this flower also attracts ten times more bees than clover.
- Phacelia are hailed as the most attractive plant to bees by Professor Dave Goulson and add fertility to the soil they grow in.
Late blooming plants provide pollinators with the necessary fuel to make it through the long winter in hibernation.
- Abelia, the bee-bush, has a heady scent and white flowers to attract bees and honeybees.
- Birds-foot trefoil, a native wildflower, provides nectar to bees and is the larval food source for a number of moth species.
Even if there appears to be no activity in your garden, do not disturb decaying plant matter as it may be protecting your pollinators during their hibernation period.
- Ivy, an important late nectar source for honeybees and queen bumblebees.
- Snowdrops, the first sign that spring is on its way! Also contain abundant yellow pollen to feed pollinators.
Where do I start?
RocketGro’s Wildflower Seed mix contains 8 varieties of seed to supercharge your lawn immediately and diversify your garden’s ecosystem.
All eight varieties of seed (phacelia, birdsfoot trefoil, oxeye daisy, wild carrot, alsike clover, red clover, vetch, and sainfoin) are native to the UK and this selection provides nectar for bumblebees and all pollinators. Each pack contains hundreds of seeds that will add a splash of colour to your garden, enticing a whole host of pollinators. This selection of flowers is also resilient so will return to bloom for at least two years. Sow from March through to September, spreading over well-raked soil (about 100g/ m2) and keeping the ground moist. Ideally, sow before rainfall is predicted. Watch your wildflowers grow and the pollinators arrive!
Tips from us to you:
- Supercharge your lawn with RocketGro’s wildflower seed mix, a bumblebee favourite!
- Cut back on mowing your lawn and let the natural flora and fauna thrive.
- Avoid using pesticides as these are not bee-friendly. Instead consider a light soapy water spray to ward off unwanted pests.
- Use RocketGro’s Soil Improver to add a burst of nutrients to your garden so that flowers can flourish.
- Look out for the pollinator symbol when searching through the RHS database of plants here for more flower inspiration.
Buzzing for more?
Click here for more information on our Wildflower seed mix, and shop for other organic gardening products by RocketGro.
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