Planting the Pollinator Garden

By Patricia Lunn Adsit, Master Gardener Extension Volunteer with Walton County

Amidst all of the confusion of reopening plans along with continuing cautionary COVID19 cancellations, we received a welcome notice this week: the Great Georgia Pollinator Census will be held August 21 and 22, with a few adjustments put in place to account for possible changes in the Fall school schedule. With that in mind, Walton County gardeners will want to prepare with plants that will be flowering 100 days from now.

Here are a few considerations:

  • When planting for pollinators this month, make your goal to create a backyard buffet for beneficial insects and pollinators. Consider an all-native smorgasbord of bee balm (Monarda), Cardinal flower (lobelia), sunflowers (helianthus), and tickweed (Coreopsis Grandiflora). Here is a great resource with a plant list: UGA Cooperative Extension Bulletin B1349, Beyond Butterflies: Gardening for Native Pollinators   https://secure.caes.uga.edu/extension/publications/files/pdf/B%201349_1.PDF
  • Have you been considering planting an herb garden? This may be the time. Basil, dill, parsley, oregano, chives, sage, rosemary, and thyme are easy to grow and can all thrive in containers of appropriate size as well as in-ground. Not only will these flavor-enhancers do well in Zone 8a, if you allow some to flower in late Summer, they can attract many of the insects we will be counting. 
  • If you are planting an herb garden to attract pollinators, you will want to add members of the mint family. I will be adding a hardy perennial that I learned about in last year’s Pollinator Census: Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), which attracts many insects on the census to its flowers, including various bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies, and beetles. The leaves are very fragrant, and the flowers can be white to shades of light purple, some with purple spots.  Pycnanthemum means “densely flowered,” an attribute that means Mountain Mint can accommodate many pollinators at once.  The long bloom time, a month or more in July and August, is another reason Mountain Mint is a great choice for those interested in attracting and feeding pollinators during the two-day census. Mountain Mint is a less-aggressive spreader than other members of the mint family (which should definitely be corralled by planting in containers), and it is said to be unattractive to deer. It flowers best in full sun, but as all mints do, it tolerates some shade.
  • If you have never planted edible flowers, this year is the year to give them a trial! Nasturtium blossoms are indeed edible with a spicy, peppery flavor and are considered good companion plants to squashes.  Marigolds, another edible flower, are good companion plants with tomatoes. And both will be flowering in mid-August. Remember NEVER eat flowers that have been exposed to pesticides, which are always unwelcome in all pollinator gardens anyway!
  • As with all new plantings, remember to give them plenty of water, and top with a layer of biodegradable mulch. Make sure your garden receives at least 1” of water each week throughout the growing season. 

Want to learn more about the Great Georgia Pollinator Census to be conducted August 21 and 22? Visit their website, where you can sign up to be a citizen-scientists, here: www.ggapc.org.

Have home gardening questions? Need a soil test kit? Contact the Walton County Extension Office by Phone 770-267-1324 or email – uge1297@uga.edu

Patricia Lunn Adsit is a Walton County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer as well as a member of the Garden Writers Association (GardenComm). She lives and gardens in Loganville, GA

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