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Establish a Pollinator Habitat on Your Farm

June 21, 2017

June 19-25 marks National Pollinator Week, a great time to consider growing a pollinator habitat on your property and start planning ahead to planting wildflower seeds this fall. Converting unused or marginal land to pollinator habitats can have several benefits, such as reducing soil erosion and helping to protect valuable water resources.

Interested in establishing a pollinator habitat on your property? Here are some tips to help you get started and maintain your site.

  1. Site Selection

When picking a site, think about the variables that will help it be successful. For example, selecting a site on the upside of prevailing winds will help protect the area from potential pesticide drift. Locations with full sun are best for wildflowers and grasses to thrive, and locations beside or within natural areas are best for bees and butterflies.

  1. Seed Mixture Selection

You can have the best-prepared site in the world, but if you don’t use the right seed mixture for your site, you will not achieve the desired result. Use native plant seeds when possible, but when cost and/or availability don’t allow for that, select adapted species that are non-invasive and rich in nectar and pollen. Wildflower mixtures should include plants that flower from spring to fall, to provide a long season of pollen and nectar for pollinators.

  1. Site Establishment

Proper site preparation, including clearing the ground and minimizing the presence of weeds and other plants, is critical for good results.

Small areas can be seeded by hand or with the use of a drop or cyclone spreader. Seeds should be raked in lightly or dragged before firming with a cultipacker to maximize seed-to-soil contact. Avoid burying your seed. If seeds are planted too deeply, the plants will emerge poorly.

  1. Site Maintenance

Without control of fast-growing annual weeds, plant seedlings can quickly be covered by a canopy of weeds. Mowing at a height of at least 4 inches, whenever the weeds reach 12‒18 inches, will effectively control weeds in the first growing season without harming the slower-growing wildflowers. After emergence of desired plants, weeds can also be pulled by hand, spot-sprayed with a non-selective, non-residual herbicide, or cut off with a weed eater. If no native grasses have been seeded, a selective grass herbicide may be used. When the use of herbicides is indicated, check with your County or State Extension Service or local Syngenta representative for recommendations.

Patience is needed – it will take 2‒3 years for the root systems of new perennial plants to crowd out other plants that have grown there in the past. But over time, your pollinator habitat will require less maintenance than your crops.

For more information on Operation Pollinator and how you can become involved, please visit OperationPollinator-US.com.

Download our Quick Guide here.

Additional resources

Federal Programs – The USDA administers the Farm Bill conservation programs primarily through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

State Programs – Check with your state Department of Natural Resources and Water and Conservation Districts.

Private ProgramThe Bee & Butterfly Habitat Fund

Seed Resources: Applewood Seed Company

Seeding & Site Establishment References