Garden Notes: Gardeners can take small steps to help save pollinators

This year, I have resolved to feed one butterfly, shelter one bee, plant one native plant and dispense with one chemical. It’s a start.

For years, scientists have been telling us we’re losing vital pollinators. The books that have been written on the subject could fill Blair County’s libraries, but after awhile, the warnings seemed not to register with me.

The second International Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health and Policy was held at the Nittany Lion Inn in August last year. Pollinators are still in trouble, and the scientists attending blamed three things: pathogens, poor nutrition and pesticides.

There isn’t much more I can do about pathogens. I’ve already given up aerosol hairspray and oven cleaner. But I think I can substitute one Dooryard Violet for one Pansy and do away with one nasty pesticide.

In 1962, Rachel Carson almost single-handedly caused the ban on DDT, with her book “The Silent Spring.” DDT still taints the environment. Who really knows the residual effects of all the chemicals we use? So I give up part of my chemical arsenal.

I would have argued with anyone that my garden was “pollinator friendly.” To prove it to myself, I found Penn State’s application to have my garden certified “friendly.” You can find it at

publications/pollin-app. I planned to hang my sign on the garden gate, and I would have, if it had met the pollinator garden requirements. It doesn’t. A pollinator friendly garden should have at least four native trees and shrubs. I have one redbud. I need at least six native perennials. I was happy to count 10 of them.

Next on the list: “caterpillar food sources.” I need two to certify my garden. I have one, maybe. I have the water requirement covered and plenty of bare ground, rocks and dead wood to provide nesting sites and overwintering.

The application asks what I’m doing about invasive plants. Judging by the Japanese honeysuckle sneaking into the garden every spring, not enough.

There is a section on reducing pesticide use. The owner of a Pollinator Friendly Garden must “clearly identify the pest before taking action, use less toxic pesticides, always follow label directions, never spray plants in bloom, spray late in the evening when bees are less active and target spray only the problem spots.” Check, check and double-check. So this year, I will surrender my almost full gallon of Round-Up to the hazardous material collectors. It will be just me and my garden gloves yanking out invasive plants, flicking Colorado Potato Beetles into a jar and stomping on Dogwood Sawfly caterpillars.

This year, I will feed one butterfly, shelter one bee, and plant one native plant. It’s a start.

Coming up

* Today, Tyrone Garden Club’s plant sale at Tyrone City Park, Starts at 8 a.m.

* Today, Blair Garden Club’s plant sale, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Dorman’s Jewelry, 712 Pleasant Valley Blvd. Altoona

Contact Teresa Futrick by e-mail at