Thanks a Million
A few days ago the Chicago Tribune ran a story about how 14,000 Chicago gardens had been registered with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, contributing to the total of 1,040,000 gardens registered since 2015 when the challenge was launched. Actually, the press release announcing this achievement came out on February 26th, so it’s not exactly breaking news.
Even so, I’ll call this an encouraging development. It’s easy to roll one’s eyes over this sort of project. Anyone can register their property as a pollinator garden, even if it’s just a slab of concrete, and nobody is going to check.
And the pollinator crisis won’t be solved without new government policies on things like pesticides and habitat destruction, which means overcoming the resistance of various industries.
Still, there’s evidence that private gardens can significantly add to pollinator abundance and diversity. And popular education is important for influencing both consumer demand and legislative action.
The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge was sponsored by the National Garden Pollinator Network, which is an alliance of conservation and gardening organizations, along with some government agencies.
According to the Network, a pollinator garden should:
- use plants that provide nectar and pollen
- provide a water source
- have plenty of sun and protection from the wind
- create big patches of blooming plants attractive to pollinators
- have continuous bloom throughout the growing season
- avoid pesticide use
While the Network encourages native plants, they are not pushed exclusively. In the Chicago Tribune article, spokespeople mention 3 examples of pollinator plants (Aster, Penstemon, and “upright Sedum”), but only 2 of those 3 are native to the Chicago area.
The Network’s next focus is to promote the idea that gardens should have at least three “pollinator plants” blooming in each season, and also to encourage participation in citizen science projects that document the health of pollinator populations. I kind of wish they would try for 5 million pollinator gardens, or at least 2 million.
Efforts like these are not the whole answer by any means, but they should certainly be part of the solution. So good for them.
Incidentally, the title to this post comes from the name of a song by (I think) Louis Armstrong. Give it a listen if you like.