Homeowner With Small Yard Seeks Big Impact

Homeowner With Small Yard Seeks Big Impact

Bumblebee on goldenrod "Fireworks"

Those of us who love gardening, being outdoors, watching any and all critters--are all aware of at least some of the challenges currently facing our ecosystem. Clean air and clean water are not negotiable. But as a homeowner with very little under my control, if I want to help stop the problems, what do I really have any chance of impacting? If I have any soap box at all, where should it be focused?

No doubt I'll have some disagreement on this one, but at this time, with the data currently available to me, I think there is really only one place that it makes sense to bug my neighbors about, it is this:

Stop using pesticides. And probably weed killer. And plant something that blooms that isn't "normal."



released a story on new research showing an alarming decline in bumblebee populations. Most research to this point has focused on honeybees. Bumblebees, however, are also important pollinators--especially important to blueberries and tomatoes, which they pollinate with what is known as "buzz pollination." I will call it "shake your booty pollination," as it sends the pollen literally flying off the flower. The researchers did a three-year study of over 350 sites in 40 states. The news was not good.

"We show that the relative abundance of four species have declined by up to 96 percent and that their surveyed geographic ranges have contracted by 23 percent to 87 percent," they wrote.

This is really grim stuff. Just as with Colony Collapse Disorder, there is no one thing that can be pointed at as the smoking gun. Pesticides. Other "cides." Loss of habitat (which is leading to inbreeding). So what can I or you do?

First, plant


 (varieties available for nearly every zone) and a couple of other native things that will extend the period of time in your yard in which bees and other pollinators can find something blooming, and a lot of it. Goldenrod spreads readily and really serves up piles of blooms. 

Create More Habitat!

Marigolds are great, too, but will not attract as many bumblebees. Try some penstemon. Plant Peonies! Plant Poppies! Plant tomatoes! Plant blueberries! Shoot, just go to the

Pollinator Partnership

, pull up the guide for your area of the country and plant them all!

OK, that might be a bit much. I've only got a quarter of an acre. But seriously, it is so much more fun to DO than to NOT DO--and it's a much easier sell. So first you plant this stuff, and if you've already done that, divide some of it and share it with your neighbors. Tell them why. Talk to the kids. Kids will dig where adults fear to tread. Get them to join you in building more habitat than you can possibly do on your own.

Share. Your. Enthusiasm.

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