Search for “pollinator” in the books section of Amazon.com, and about 750 titles pop up, most of them written in the past decade as pollinator decline and concern about it has risen. Kim Eierman, founder of EcoBeneficial, explains the need to plant for pollinators in the context of victory gardens in her new book The Pollinator Victory Garden: Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening (Quarry Books, 2020).
Victory gardens were the home-front food gardens planted during World War I and II to help with the war effort. Home gardeners raised an incredible amount of food—40 percent of the produce raised in 1944 was grown in home gardens.
Eierman argues that the decline in pollinators and insects of all kinds is as grave as the world wars, given the threat to food production and ecosystems it presents. The book’s chapters each describe “essentials” of pollinator gardening—basic, useful information for designing a pollinator garden and planting for pollinators in all their phases of lives.
Eierman covers how pollination works, why it is vital to the planet and which insects and animals are pollinators. She goes through basics of the many types of pollinators (beetles, bees, moths, butterflies and bats among others), habitat needs of pollinators, such as shelter, overwintering spots, water and food and gives guidelines for homeowners on ways to plant to attract pollinators. The book is an easy read and it’s filled with wonderful photos of pollinators and plants—many of them provided by Minnesota author Heather Holm.
Of particular use to northern gardeners is Eierman’s focus on creating overwintering habitats for pollinators. While some butterflies and moths migrate, many insects spend the winter snuggling into plant stems, hollow logs, under bark or underground. Being a “messy” gardener who keeps a brush pile and doesn’t cut down perennials in fall is a good thing for pollinators.
I also liked Eierman’s design suggestions for incorporating native plants from your region in your garden beds, planting lots of plants for a succession of bloom and focusing on trees and shrubs, which are vital to pollinators, especially in the larval stages. Her advice is solid and with large print, information broken up into easily absorbed sections and those gorgeous photos — this book is a great introduction to pollinator-forward gardening. It also would be a good book for a middle-school aged or above child who has an interest in the environment.
For those who want to dig even deeper into the topic, Holm’s book Bees: An Identification and Native Plant Forage Guide (Pollination Press, 2014) offers great information on the bees we see in the Midwest and how to support them. Another excellent guide for gardeners is Pollinator Friendly Gardening: Gardening for Bees, Butterflies and other Pollinators (Voyageur Press, 2016) by Rhonda Fleming Hayes, who writes the pollinator column for Northern Gardener each issue.