Here are examples of how you can get started right away by turning a small part of your yard into a native pollinator garden.
“Container gardens are versatile for small yards, patios, decks and porches. They can be be placed alone or in groups. The color palette of natives is often more subtle, like that in nature. So it’s easy to mix things together and have them look good. They are often planted with a tall plant, a plant that fills the pot and one that spills over. These varying heights are attractive. Large pots pots work best but make sure they are not too heavy and have wheels.” (by Kate Brandes)
POND GARDEN BY LEONARD GREEN
“Inspired by visits to Japan, we decided to create a small formal garden to contrast with the rest of our wild yard. We installed a pond, just large enough for a few water lilies, blue flag iris, some pickerel weed, and horsetail.
Next to it, we built a stone garden to create a symmetrical balance between water and stone. We planted seasonal natives in the disturbed spaces on either side of the two gardens,” says Leonard Green.
“On the pond side we have cardinal flowers, both Lobelia cardinalis (red) and Lobelia siphilitica (blue), blue flag iris, common milkweed, and self-seeded Rudbeckia. Next to the stone garden, under a very old and twisted Asian rhododendron, we have a ground cover of wild geraniums, cranesbill, Virginia creeper, and on the sunnier border, columbine.”
“On the wetter side of the large rhododendron (there’s a hose and outdoor shower nearby), we have more blue flag and slender iris, swamp milkweed, Joe-Pye weed, bee balm, turtlehead, and Lobelia siphilitica.”
Lobelia cardinalis, red cardinal flower
Lobelia siphilitica, blue cardinal
Iris versicolor, blue flag iris
Iris prismatica, slender blue iris
Asclepias incarnata, swamp milkweed
Asclepias syriaca, common milkweed
Nymphaea odorata, American white water lily
Pontederia cordage, pickerelweed
Equisetum hyemale, scouring horsetail
Geranium maculatum, wild geranium
Parthenocissus quinquefolia, Virginia creeper
Aquilegia canadensis, columbine
Eutrochium purpurea, Joe-Pye weed
Monarda spp., bee balm
Chelone spp., turtlehead
BUILDING A RAIN GARDEN
WHAT ARE RAIN GARDENS?
Rain gardens are easy to install, look good year-round, require little maintenance, and help prevent water pollution. Rain gardens are shallow depressions designed to soak up water and support trees, shrubs, and flowers that tolerate both wet and dry conditions. They are meant to capture runoff so that it can filter into the soil. Planted with deeply rooted native plants, rain gardens do double duty, providing habitat and floral resources for pollinators while reducing storm surge in local watersheds. Often located near gutter downspouts or places where water puddles, rain gardens can also be landscaped into gentle slopes or run curbside along streets. Rain gardens are a win/win.
WHAT RAIN GARDENS ARE NOT?
Rain gardens are not ponds, and are not mosquito breeding grounds. Rain gardens should be designed to hold water for only a brief period of time after a storm, quickly filtrating back into the ground. Unlike a pond or wetland, rain gardens should not generally be more than a foot deep at any given point and should not use any sort of liner. The actual depth and size of your rain garden will vary depending upon how much rainfall you need to collect from your roof or other impervious surface.
THE BEST SPOT FOR A RAIN GARDEN
The rain garden should be located in a place that can collect as much impervious area (driveway, roof, sidewalks) runoff as possible. The best areas are generally where water naturally drains but doesn’t hold water. It should also be located at least 10′ to 15’ away from your home.
Do not place the rain garden directly over or near a septic system. It may be tempting to put the rain garden in a part of the yard where water already ponds. Don’t!
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BIOSWALES & RAIN GARDENS:
Although they sound similar, bioswales are designed to slow down rainwater through a curving or linear path, while rain gardens are designed to capture, store, and infiltrate rainwater in a bowl shape.
MANAGING WATER WITH RAIN GARDENS & BIOSWALES
How to Create a Rain Garden:
First Test the Soil for texture and drainage. A good mix for a rain garden is 30% sand, 30–40% loamy topsoil and 30% organic material from yard waste compost. This mixture must be tilled into the existing soil to ensure proper drainage conditions. Fill a foot deep hole with water to test the drainage. If it doesn’t drain within 24 hours you will need to change location or soil.
For more directions:
Excellent advice from:
Helpful How to Video:
YouTube from New Hampshire Water Group
TURF LAWN TO NATIVE MEADOW
Creating a meadow of native plants that feed birds and invite pollinators or beginning with a container garden of native plants can be an exhilarating and rewarding project. First you have the satisfaction of restoring disturbed landscapes and helping to arrest the collapse of birds, insects and pollinating species while reconstituting soil and protecting underground watersheds. But also, the successful result will be extraordinarily beautiful.
HOW TO TURN TURF LAWNS INTO MEADOWS
Two great books by Doug Tallamy:
Bringing Nature Home
Nature’s Best Hope
What we are watching by Doug Tallamy
Restoring the Little Things That Run the World
Why we need to restore landscapes to invite insects, pollinators, birds.
THREE KINDS OF MEADOWS
1_All native grasses & sedges
2_Primarily native grasses with drifts of wild flowers
3_Primarily wild flowers
A book to inspire you with gorgeous photography:
Planting in a Post-Wild World,
by Thomas Rainer & Claudia West
A website to inspire you:
2/3 For the Birds
Seed starter kits for native wild-flower gardens:
From The Xerces Society
Replacing our lawns with natives:
A simple first step to replacing your lawn with natives is to smother the lawn with cardboard and wood chip mulch and/or compost in the fall. By spring you can plant directly on top.
RESOURCES FOR RE-THINKING YOUR YARD:
1. ECI, Ecological Culture Initiative, Hampton Bays NY.
Plant list for pollinator garden; instructional videos; community based.
2. Westchester NY Land Trust
Lots of tips and information on this site with a compact Spanish language reference guide.
3. Cornell Cooperative Extension Suffolk
Contact person: Roxanne Zimmer. Educational programs and guidance: Native plants/deer proofing/webinars/fact sheets.
4. Pollinator.org. Regional planting advice; this is the Eastern Broad-leaf Forest Oceanic region.