For towns and health systems looking to create better pollinator habitat immediately, start with your landscaping contract. These contracts are typically reviewed annually and can be renegotiated without much hassle. Here are some simple changes that can make your landscaping contracts more pollinator-friendly.

Switch to Organic Annuals

Summertime landscaping in municipalities and healthcare systems is typically filled with colorful hanging baskets and planters filled with non-native annuals. Given the extensive root system of native plants, they are not always a good choice for these displays. And, while annuals are not good larval habitat – in other words, they don’t provide the baby food and nesting supplies that pollinators need – they can be a good source of nectar for adults. Unfortunately, most annuals are treated with a variety of pesticides, causing them to provide poisoned flowers and nectar.

An easy solution to this is simply to buy organic annuals. While this cannot transform these non-native plants into a sufficient habitat for local pollinators, it can stop them from poisoning the adults. That’s a win.

Plant Pollinator Gardens

Where your property permits, it is always beneficial to see how lawn can be replaced with pollinator gardens filled with native plants. We are so used to seeing large expanses of lawn that it can be hard to visualize alternatives. Yet foundation plantings and gardens encompassing shade trees are just two ways to add beauty – and biodiversity and environmental health benefits – to a lawn.

Treat your lawn as a blank canvas and work with your landscaper to design pollinator gardens. Create inviting seating areas with pretty benches and native-vine-draped arbors. Add spacious paths surrounded by native blooms. These options reduce the amount of lawn you need to maintain and increase the beauty of your surroundings.

Add Native Plants to Non-Native Gardens

While developing native plant gardens is the ideal, there is no reason to rip out existing non-native garden beds. There is much that can be done to make them more pollinator-friendly. The most obvious action is the one mentioned above – use organic plants. Another option is to ensure you are not planting species that are invasive in your locale.

Beyond that, consider incorporating native species into your existing gardens. These perennials can be used to add habitat and attract beautiful butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds.

Eliminate Pesticides

Pristine lawns are typically sprayed with pesticides. These herbicides and insecticides wreak havoc on our pollinators – killing them or reducing their ability to thrive.

One of the best things that can be done, therefore, is to eliminate spraying them on your lawns. Even if no native plants are added, simply choosing to no longer add pesticides makes a huge difference to your local pollinators.

Use Fertilizer Alternatives

The “green carpet” approach to lawns also requires a lot of fertilizer. This gets into the stormwater runoff and can have very negative impacts on local wetlands and bodies of water. It is also not helpful to native plants, who prefer the soils native to your locale and do not typically want fertilizer.

The best alternative to fertilizers is to replace lawn with native plants as much as possible and use overseeding to enhance the remaining grassy areas. At minimum, a switch to organic fertilizers may have less of a negative impact.

Reduce Mowing

Mowing lawns is something that is so commonplace in our society, we rarely even think about it. But mowing uses an extraordinary amount of fossil fuels (and even electric mowers are still frequently charged on grids powered by fossil fuels). They also shoot out a lot of pollution.

Simply reducing how often you mow can make a positive impact on your local environment. And, where native plants are growing, it is essential to mow infrequently so that the plants can develop and go through their lifecycle.

Landscaping Contracts Can Be Used to Help Pollinators

Whether you are a municipality or a healthcare system, your landscaping contracts are an opportunity to create real benefit for your local pollinators. By changing your approach to pesticides, plant species, and mowing, you can make great strides towards protecting your pollinators.

Photo by Sean Sweeney on Unsplash