Q. How can I plant a small container with plants for pollinators?
Hello! I have a tiny amount of outdoor space that I wanted to use to provide resources for pollinators. The space is approximately the size of a medium-to-big A/C unit. I live in brooklyn, in crown heights. I've never planted a window box or anything before (I only have houseplants!), so I have no idea where to start! I know how to provide water for the various kinds of pollinators, but I'd love to be able to give them some native plants to enjoy, that I can still manage in a small space. Do you have any suggestions or resources I could go through to point me in the right direction? Thank you so much!!
Planting a small container garden for pollinators is absolutely possible and a great idea!
To begin with, you will need to think about the aspects that apply to any new garden, such as providing healthy soil for your plants, considering how much light will be available, how you will access adequate water for the garden and any color or design preferences that you have. A good place to start is by reading our Guide to Container Gardens. Read both the first page and the second tab that helps with selecting the right type of soil, right kind of container for wear and tear and proper drainage. To keep a container outdoors year round, you need to select a material that will not be damaged when the soil expands and contracts as it freezes and thaws.
Once you have tackled the design issues of your container, the specifics of its location and providing soil nutrition and drainage, you can move on to plant selection. You should think about whether there is a particular type of pollinator that particularly interests you. A butterfly garden would be one possibility and we also have a guide that helps with the elements of designing a garden that attracts butterflies by providing host plants for the entire life cycle of a particular species. For a more broad spectrum of pollinator support, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has an excellent list of plants specific to our region of the country that can be found here.
Most of the plants that are recommended in both guides are native plants which are, not surprisingly, the plants that support native species, including pollinators. That also means that they are mostly perennial plants (will re-grow year after year) and very well suited to their location. Look through the lists of plants and search for descriptions on the internet. See which ones you like and might wish to grow. Keep in mind the space you have, the light that is available to them and how much water they will need. Your USDA growing zone is 7; if you see a reference to zones, choose plants that will grow in zone 6 as container grown plants are exposed to harsher growing conditions than those planted in the ground.
You can begin to prepare the container and soil in late winter and then order plants online or visit nurseries to gather the plants that you want. Many will not be available to purchase until close to the last frost date in May.
Please get back in touch with us as your plan develops and you have more specific questions. We are very happy to help and wish you luck! You can contact the Plant Information Office at NYBG directly at PlantInfo@NYBG.org.
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service
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