What is a pollinator pathway?
Pollinators need way-stations to roam and migrate. A pollinator pathway is an orchestrated series of gardens that nourish pollinators on their travels from one large tract to the next, facilitating their movements.
The Hastings Pollinator Pathway is a conceptual route that includes the Old Croton Aqueduct, South County Trailway, Mt Hope Blvd and Farragut Avenue and Parkway. These corridors connect the green spaces of Hillside Woods, the Lenoir Preserve and Saw Mill River watershed. Every house in-between and to the side will help pollinators – they don't only travel in straight lines.
What is a pollinator garden?
Any pesticide-free garden that provides food and habitat with pollinator-friendly native plants is a pollinator garden.
Why native plants?
When you plant native, you provide for the full lifecycle of pollinating insects, and you get a yardscape alive with life. Many non-native plants do offer pollen, but don't offer habitat, and some are invasive, i.e. they monocrop their surroundings. Meanwhile, many insect larva are host-specific, meaning they require a particular plant to survive. Monarch caterpillars can only munch on milkweed, for example, though adults will flock to asiatic butterfly bush for sustenance. In addition to laying eggs and feeding emerging caterpillars in the spring, insects need plants for overwintering habitat. Some crawl into the hollow stems of native plants; others curl up in their leaves. We need to provide a range of wild plants for a diversity of insects, so they can live to pollinate all blooming plants and create next fall's seeds—and we can enjoy a more resilient ecosystem. Why do we need to do this? Because we have taken up their habitat with our homes, lawns, and infrastructure—and without a robust and biodiverse insect population, the greater web of life is in peril.
To learn more:
Why Native Plants Matter, Audubon Society
How (and Why) to Use Native Plants, NY Times
I'm excited to get started or improve my garden, but I'm overwhelmed.
Regardless of the size or state of your garden, going completely native and pesticide-free all at once can seem overwhelming. Start with small steps:
Choose one small area of your garden to work with at a time.
Take time to explore what you have in your garden. Look for natives you may already be growing. Identify invasive plants that you can remove to give native plants more space to grow. Need help identifying? Try the app Seek by iNaturalist, or consult with a Pollineighbor.
Be patient. Making changes can take a full year or more as you work through the different seasons—and that's ok.
Plant it and they will come. Whether you choose a small patch to add some groupings of native pollinator-friendly plants, add a few containers or choose to de-lawn and smother a section to be ready for planting in six months, every step will count.
Still feeling overwhelmed? Reach out to us - we love to help!
I have some non-native plants. Do I need to remove them all?
The short answer is mostly a "No." The long answer is it depends on the plant and its growth habit. See below for aggressive non-natives that we recommend removing.
Manage and maintain any non-invasive, non-native plants. When well-behaved, non-native plants do not cause a problem.
When possible, find native replacements for non-native plants that you don't want to keep. For non-native plants you want to include, consider buying sterile cultivars that won't produce seed.
Learn more about the non-native plants you have and what you can do to make sure they don't escape your yard. Keep non-native plants in check:
Prune new growth in the spring or fall
Remove suckers (new shoots) and rhizomes or roots that spread under the soil
Deadhead (trim spent flowers) regularly to avoid plants producing seeds, or remove seeds.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We recommend the REMOVAL of the following due to their aggressive and problematic growth habits:
Japanese barberry spreads quickly and colonizes natural areas via seed-eating birds and mice. It also increases tick populations by providing a perfect micro-habitat for them. New York has prohibited its sale.
Asian Wisteria may have beautiful blooms, but this quick growing, woody vine spreads quickly and can overtake and kill large trees and even get into house foundations and walls to cause damage.
Burning bush. This shrub has escaped gardens and invaded area woodlands. It has also escaped prohibition because of its money-making popularity with nurseries; it is "regulated" in NYS.
For a more complete list, see this guide to NYS prohibited and regulated invasive plants.
I have allergies. Will a pollinator garden make them worse?
We have some good news for you! Plants that rely on pollinating insects tend to have pollen that stays put. Wind-pollinated plants are usually the culprit of pollen-related allergies. Read more about how selecting native, pollinator-friendly plants can reduce the amount of allergens in your garden.
Landscape Plant Selection Criteria for the Allergic Patient, American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
OPALS Allergy Plant Scale, Allergy-Free Gardening
Significant Allergens for Westchester County, NY in Fall, Pollen Library
What about lawns?
Lawns are pollinator deserts, but they're useful for recreation. There are several options for providing pollinator habitat and keeping some lawn.
Add or replace grass with blooming clover, which is durable, adds nitrogen to the soil, and requires less water and mowing. Clover blooms are an important first food for bees foraging in early spring.
For lawns that see less traffic, consider replacing it with an eco- and pollinator-friendly ground cover.
Find a few border areas where you can remove some lawn and replace with a groupings of native pollinator-friendly plants.
Add containers to a stoop, patio or other non-grassy area. See our Good for Containers list in our Quick Start Guide.
Keep your lawn, but add pollinator friendly shrubs, trees or vines along fences or as a centerpiece. Pollinator-Pathway.org has several resources lists:
How can I get rid of pests?
One of the benefits of a native garden is native plants tend to work well to balance the types of insects in your garden. Once you have a healthy range of native plants, you will find you have fewer pest issues.
Remember, pesticides kill beneficial insects - such as butterflies, bees, green lacewing, and ladybugs - as well as unwanted ones. Attracting beneficial insects that prey on pests is an effective way to control pest populations without pesticides. Plant some favorite native plants or use other non-toxic remedies to keep your garden balanced and pollinator-friendly.
What should I do with leaves in the fall?
Our top recommendation is NOTHING! Leaving the leaves in place has a number of benefits:
Provides nutrients for the soil and plants as the leaves slowly break down
Keeps valuable topsoil and nutrients in place by allowing rain and snow melt to slowly trickle into soil rather than wash it away.
Provides insulation and frost protection in the fall during final growth cycle, and in spring for tender plant shoots.
Keeps habitat intact for a wide range of pollinator and beneficial insect life, many of which overwinter in leaves.
Reduces the workload for you! You can mulch leaves with your mower right into your lawn.
NOTE: Wet leaves can be a slipping hazard for your family and other residents. Keep sidewalks and patios clear of leaves in all seasons.
You can use your leaves as mulch for planted beds. Some gardeners like to shred leaves before using as mulch to keep leaves in place and help them break down into nutrients faster. While this is an option, consider that shredding can destroy fragile insect life, like chrysalises, eggs and live insects.
Will "leaving the leaves" destroy my grass?
A thick heavy cover of leaves can cause problems, but leaving some leaves can actually provide protection and nutrients for your grassy areas. As noted above under "What should I do with leaves in the fall," some gardeners like to shred leaves before leaving them in place. While this can destroy insect life in leaf litter, it is an alternative to removing leaves entirely. On lawns, many people use a mulching mower and simply mow over fallen leaves. This adds shredded leaf matter into the soil, which adds carbon and organic matter, keeping a lawn healthier. It also allows water to drain more quickly, breaking up those wet, dense mats of leaves that can damage grass.
For information on the hazards of leaf blower use, see this page from Hastings Conservation Commission.