As National Pollinator Month, June is set aside to not only encourage the planting of pollinator plants and gardens, but to also spread awareness of the hard work that both flora and fauna do to create and sustain the world we live in. And what an appropriate time of year to do so (at least in this hemisphere), as many gardens are at their springtime best in June.
When we think of pollinator plants, we mainly think of the swaths of pretty perennial and annual flowers that look and smell terrific. But the world’s food crops depend on bees, butterflies, moths and a host of other pollinators (wasps, flies, and beetles to name a few) to produce the food that feeds us all. Did you know that scientists estimate that about 35% of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators to produce harvestable food? Your vegetable garden depends on them, too. That’s such a direct and intimate connection, that both we humans and pollinating insects depend on the same plants for sustenance. Put this way, the importance of protecting and sustaining pollinators can also be seen as important for our own survival.
Regenerative Gardening Can Help
While some human activities such as pesticide use and land degradation have been linked to declines in native (or solitary) bee populations specifically, regenerative agriculture and gardening techniques can help to restore their populations (and help all the rest of the pollinators in the process). Methods such as no-till production and organic cultivation help build the soil environment where many species of bees nest and build their homes. Nurturing crops as closely as possible to the way nature would herself is the best way to ensure that pollinators will be around to help us feed ourselves.
That said, let’s discuss a handful of herbs and other garden staples that you can include in your veggie garden to help pollinators keep buzzing and flitting along.
Dill is a culinary delight for both us and the beautiful Swallowtail Butterflies. Their caterpillars specifically seek out plants in the carrot family as their primary food source. The graceful presence of Swallowtails lounging (and munching) on plants such as parsley, dill, carrot or Queen Anne’s lace branches is a sign that all is right in the world. Plant any of these plants in a sunny spot, and let their feathery foliage become a haven for these creatures. And if your experience is anything like mine, once you plant dill, you and your Swallowtail Butterflies will always have a handy supply.
Another “plant it only once” vegetable is fennel, a herbaceous plant that is so versatile in the kitchen. It’s versatile in the garden, too, as it is a favorite nectar and pollen source for butterflies and bees. With its delicate, fern-like leaves and clusters of tiny yellow flowers, fennel attracts Swallowtail Butterflies as well as a plethora of other pollinators, including bees. And because it blooms and produces nectar and pollen all summer long, it’ll provide sustenance for the parade of pollinators visiting your garden for the next several months.
Chives will definitely be in your garden year after year because they are perennials, happily growing into clumps of mild oniony-flavored leaves. Pompoms of purple flowers emerge on top, and those, too, can be tossed in salads and such. Harvest some flowers but keep most of them for the garden’s hungry pollinator visitors.
Lush and invigorating mint is not only a staple in the kitchen but also a refuge for bees and butterflies. Its abundant nectar supply serves as a vital energy source. Choose from a variety of styles such as spearmint or peppermint—whichever you prefer because pollinators will enjoy them all. One word of caution when planting: Mint is a vigorous spreader, so keeping it in an above-ground pot or burying a potted mint are two ways to keep mint’s spread in check.
No pollinator garden is complete without sunflowers. They not only make a stunning visual statement but also provide an abundant supply of pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies. Their vibrant blooms act as beacons, guiding pollinators from far and wide. My one warning about sunflowers is to be careful walking near them. Their height puts them at just the spot where you’re putting your upper body and face at risk should bees suddenly become agitated for some reason. Pro tip: Harvest the seeds before they begin falling out of the flowerhead or this, too, will be a “plant it only once” item in your garden.
Lavender’s delicate purple blooms not only infuse our gardens with beauty but also beckon butterflies, bees and especially honeybees with their leaves’ intoxicating fragrance. Humans are lured to it, as well, with culinary, medicinal and wellbeing uses.
June’s Gardening Tasks
June is also a fine month for mulching your vegetable garden, if you haven’t done so already. With the seedlings up, transplants getting bigger and the garden filling out, a 3-inch layer of our Organic Hardwood Bark Mulch will help keep the weeds down while also adding beneficial biology to the soil with the added compost.
You might also have a few straggler plants that you can’t fit in a garden bed or that got a late start as an indoor seed starting project. No room? No problem! Pot ‘em up in containers. Use our 100% organic Container Blend Potting Soil to give them the best possible life on your patio.