Almost all the information you find about pollinator gardens and native plants is directed at homeowners. There is information on home gardens and dealing with neighbors. I’ve even seen webinars on protecting your native plant gardens from local weed ordinances. But what you rarely find is information for towns who want to support pollinators.

Towns have a lot on their plates.

Unlike a homeowner, towns have to consider a wide range of people and businesses. They have mutliple layers of regulations to follow. They have to consider sight lines and emergency access routes and future development. And they have to ensure utilities are provided and safety is protected for all in their community.

With all that going on, it can be hard for a town to find the time to think about pollinators. And when they do, the first thought is usually about installing a garden.

But a lovely garden is not sufficient for a town that wants to support pollinators.

Towns need to think less about installing an individual garden and more about facilitating a transition to native plants and pollinator habitat. This means thinking at a broader level about the needs of the municipality. It also means giving thought to protecting homeowners who want to support pollinators – especially when they are the first in their neighborhood to do so.

The biggest change starts with policy.

Towns are in the unique position to make changes that will affect an entire community. By changing policies to support native plants and pollinators, they can make a much bigger impact than a single garden.

Typical policies that towns should review are nuisance laws and weed ordinances. But towns can go farther than that if they want.

Towns can set new standards.

Towns can make it a policy never to spray public lawns with pesticides and herbicides. They can require solar and wind developers to plant native species around their equipment. And they can ensure that all public plantings – like sidewalk strips – include pollinator habitat.

Towns can require businesses to plant a high percentage of native plants on their property. Or make sure landfills are planted with native species. They can replace lawns in public parks with native plants.

And towns can go even further.

Towns can educate an entire community.

One of the biggest ways that towns can support pollinators is by educating their community. The more people learn about the importance of native plants, the more likely they are to embrace pollinator gardens. That means fewer complaints when neighbors veer away from traditional landscaping. And it means more support for pro-pollinator campaigns like “leave the leaves” and “no-mow May.”

Towns can post signs and distribute lists of native plant sources in their area. They can create flyers and brochures and presentations to spread the word about the importance of native plants.

Municipalities need to think big.

Towns are not homeowners, and they need to think beyond a single pollinator garden. Help your town think big about pollinators by focusing on policy, ordinances, and education. That is how towns can make a real difference in their community.

Photo by Gene Gallin on Unsplash.