As gardeners during two world wars knew, even during a major crisis you can do your bit to make things better. Victory gardens were designed to boost food productivity during the wars, one little garden plot after another. The benefits spread far beyond individual garden gates.
And gardens need pollinators. Their work, done mostly by insects, is behind one out of every three bites we eat (for 80–90% of the flowering plants on Earth). Pollinators fertilize a plant, so it can make seeds. Then we can eat the tasty fruits around the seeds, or plant the seeds for the tasty leaves, stems, roots, or seeds themselves. Even flower structures that technically self-pollinate, like strawberries or tomatoes, can produce more or bigger fruits after pollinators visit. We want that, right?
Sadly, many aspects of our modern world are waging war with our little friends. For pollinators, it’s reaching crisis levels. Numbers are dropping across the board. Once again, if we all pitch in, we can do our bit to help make things better, one garden after another.
The title of Kim Eierman’s timely new book tells us how: The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening. It’s an easy-to-read, comprehensive guide to understanding what pollinators do, what they need in order to do it, and how we can help.
When my review copy arrived, I was updating a Master Gardener presentation on Gardening for Pollinators planned for Canada Blooms 2020. My head was abuzz with questions, and Eierman’s book had many of the answers. The short table of contents quickly breaks it down for us: we can make sure we give them somewhere to live, and make certain we offer them the right food to eat.
All this is based on our understanding of the wide variety of pollinators and what makes a good home for each one, so that they can nest and find shelter. We also need to know what does and doesn’t look good on the menu for our native pollinators. Because while the plight of honeybees gets a lot of press, our native pollinators do most of the work and are the creatures most at risk.
Eierman tells us all this in terms any gardener can understand, and accompanies her information with excellent photographs. We meet the pollinators and get to know their likes and dislikes so that we can garden not only for ourselves but for the world.
The last chapter and appendix bring it all together – the pollinators, the types of plants they need, and how to fit it in to your garden conditions and what grows there already – so you can make good things happen in the space you have. She’s kind to us, acknowledging that we might not be able to achieve everything at once. Each step in a pollinator-positive direction is one worth taking.
With the weather beginning to allow us to venture outdoors, we can begin to put some of these ideas into place. Even if physical distancing means we’re just creating a plan for the future, it’s a first step in making a difference.