Pollinators are a crucial part of the food web, for people and animals alike. The global decline in pollinators has profound implications for our future. The good news is people everywhere can take small actions to help pollinators around them, whether they have a simple window box garden or a large farm.
One significant way to help pollinators is to create a pollinator-friendly garden to provide food and shelter for insects and birds alike. But before picking up a shovel, it’s important to do a different kind of digging.
“Research what birds, insects or butterflies you are hoping to attract and make sure you have the correct growing conditions to support your plant life,” said Teresa Vetick, curator of horticulture at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. “When you are selecting plants for the garden, make sure they are healthy, have a good root system and are pest free.”
As curator of horticulture, Vetick oversees a team of passionate horticulturists who care deeply about the landscape in and out of the Zoo’s exhibits. Her team works diligently with watering, weeding, pruning, mowing and monitoring the health of the grasses, shrubs, annuals, perennials and trees on the 83 developed acres and additional 4,000 square foot greenhouse.
“At the Zoo, we use a wide variety of plants that bloom from the early spring to the late fall,” Vetick said. “We consider shapes and sizes of flowers and plant them in groupings. We try to make sure we have some native plants and we do not use pesticides.”