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Bee on a flower in a pollinator habitat.

The Pollinator Habitat: What’s Next?

What’s Next? Well… that’s a great question. If you haven’t been following my pollinator habitat journey or you need a quick refresh, check this out.

It all goes back to an episode of FarmHer filmed at the Loess Hills Lavender Farm. While much of their lavender had not survived some in climate spring weather, they had the most beautiful pollinator habitat.

A pollinator habitat with butterflies.

What Does Pollinator Mean?

It was 10 acres of grasses and flowers filled with buzzing bees and more butterflies than you can ever imagine. It was absolutely gorgeous! And served a great purpose of sustainability. The week after I got home from that trip we found the acreage we had been searching for. And one of my biggest goals was to establish a pollinator habitat just like the one I had been at. 

Fast forward and we partnered with Corteva to share the story of building the habitat.

Corteva Research

They shared information and education around how to build it, things to consider and resources to reach out to for help. I felt like I had everything I needed and a timeline in place to get it done. My plan started with about 3 acres of fallow ground that sits directly north of our house. The people who owned the land prior had let it go fallow, but kept paths mowed around and through it. Over time many different small trees, bushes and grasses grew up. Truly planting it into pollinator habitat would have required clearing the trees, burning down the grasses and bushes and starting from scratch.

After realizing what a signfiicant project it would be from a work and cost perspective, plus the fact we would lose some of the only trees that existed, helped me come to the realization that I wanted to leave that just as it was.

In the thick of summer when I walk through the trails I see a variety of wildflowers, plenty of trees, bushes and milkweed mixed in. The entire area is filled with birds, bees, butterflies and more. While it isn’t perfect, it is an important habitat that was already thriving, so alone we left it. 

How Do You Start a Pollinator Habitat?

With that decision I decided to carve off a small section – about 10×10 out near the end of our driveway.

That fall we mowed down the tall grass, cleared out the growth and burned the grass to get down to bare soil. Then we put down some seeds and left it until the spring. With spring came….nothing growing but weeds so we decided we would plant some plugs to “jumpstart” the process.

Around the same time, we were notified about some development on one side and around the back of our property by the city because the land had been sold and rezoned. With the development they staked out the actual property boundaries and we came to realize that the property line was much closer to our driveway that we realized, and in fact ran right through the space we had prepped. 

Pollinator Habitat Plans

So, it was on to plan number three which was to plant pollinator plants in two pre-existing spaces that were usually planted with annuals at the end of the driveway. So, I went to a few local greenhouses and quickly realized that if I was going to get native plants as plugged, then I was going to have a difficult time.

Most of the plants that had been suggested were not available so, it was back to plan number two again and I started searching for pollinator friendly plants, regardless of their status as a native.

A pollinator habitat with lilac and pink flowers.

I found butterfly bushes, coneflowers and Russian sage. We got them planted, watered and I felt pretty hopeful that it would be a great start even though it was much, much smaller than the three acres that I had imagined in the beginning. It was a start at something.

Threats to Pollinators

About a week after we had planted them I walked down to get the mail and saw a few of the plants torn out of the ground and thrown off over to the side. I figured my husband might have accidentally thought they were weeds. Weird, but…whatever.

So I stuck the plants back in the ground and walked on. A few days later I saw the plants thrown off to the side again. So, I mentioned it to Tony and he said he didn’t do it. Again, weird.

So I replanted them again and walked on. A few weeks later all of a sudden (or so it seems) weeds had covered the little garden spots so we pulled them out and the plants were looking good. Then, I found the plants out on the ground AGAIN. This is when I finally realized that it was some kind of animal that was tearing out my plants. Some people say a deer, or a raccoon, but either way it was frustrating.

By this time the plants had been torn out too many times and were shriveled, brown and just plain dead! There are just a few plants left, and if I’m honest, they are intermixed with a few weeds and not looking great, at ALL!

Pollinator Habitat Plans Change

So, here we sit as summer comes to a close with two failed attempts at planting pollinators.

Big ideas are sometimes just that, but we have to get started somewhere. In fact, that is the definition of FarmHer.

I started with a really big idea and before I got started I nearly talked myself back out of it. But I put one foot forward and just got started. Learned my lessons, failed but got back up and kept building and growing.

My pollinator garden is no different. 

A pollinator habitat with pink flowers

In getting started we have learned some important lessons about where and how to plant. Also, how to care for them. Just like anything, the plants need time, focus, care and attention to flourish. A pollinator habitat needs time, focus, care and attention to grow.

While our first attempts haven’t been successful, we will take our knowledge and start again this fall. This time I have decided we are going to plant in the ditch. My neighbor across the street has done this and done it well, so I’m going to reach across the road and get some advice on how she did it.

My expectations are adjusted. While I’m going to take another swing at a bigger space, I also am going to plant my planters close to the house with pollinators where the animals hopefully won’t get to them. Every little bit matters, whether in a pot or in a plot. Work with the space you have and with the time you have to give and I have no doubt we can all have a successful garden that serves the greater good, big or small!

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