How You Can Turn Your Garden Into A Pollinator’s Playground

A pollinator garden program started by the Cincinnati Zoo’s horticulturists has gone nationwide. Plus, how to grow your own national park, find new seeds, and get releaf.

Photograph courtesy Cincinnati Nature Center

A garden simply wouldn’t be a garden without butterflies and bees to help it come alive. But those flower pals are on the decline thanks to a combination of climate change, pesticides, and an ever-growing national preference for row crops (corn, soybeans, etc.) over native plants. Saving the bees may be a tall order, but one local program has gone coast to coast with its mission to create havens for pollinators, one garden at a time. Plant for Pollinators, born out of the Cincinnati Zoo in 2019, encourages homeowners to—you guessed it—plant pollinator-friendly gardens. The program originally set a goal of registering 500 gardens annually. But as of January 2022, the program had registered more than 2,400 gardens as far away as Alaska. To qualify, your garden has to feature native and pollinator plantings that include host plants, which are necessary for butterflies to lay their eggs, and nectar plants, which serve as food for our winged friends. Not sure where to start? Local organizations like the Cincinnati Nature Center periodically host native plant sales and the zoo’s website offers complete and seasonal guides to the best pollinator-friendly plants, from perennials and annuals to trees and shrubs that’ll keep the bees happy.

Share the Love

Sure, you could get your seeds off the internet or from your local hardware store, but what if you could get them from your neighbors? That’s the mission of the LANE Seed Library, a seed-sharing program headquartered in the The Lane Libraries, a public library system serving parts of Butler County, where everyone is welcome to borrow up to 15 packets of seeds each year.

Grow Your Own National Park

Ready to participate in the largest cooperative conservation project ever attempted? The Homegrown National Park movement is a collective effort on the part of property owners, land managers, farmers, and “anyone with some soil to plant in” to develop 20 million acres of native plantings, all in our own backyards.

Finding ReLeaf

Since the 1980s, the Cincinnati Parks Foundation has been giving out free shade trees each year to help rebuild the urban canopy and cool off spots hit hardest by a lack of tree cover. Here’s a snapshot of how some of our neighborhoods fare when it comes to beating the heat.

Icons by Emi Villavicencio


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