By: Kirsti Harms, Executive Director of Native Prairies Association of Texas
These days there is a growing interest in helping our pollinators. According to the Million Pollinator Gardens Challenge [http://millionpollinatorgardens.org], pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we take each day, and yet pollinators are at a critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline. More nectar and pollen sources provided by flowering plants and trees will help improve their health and numbers.
Want to help pollinators and learn by doing? Native prairies make great habitats for our insects. For those of you with small garden spaces, a pocket prairie may be the way to go. Even a small plot can provide food and shelter for butterflies, bees and other insects. Check out “Building a Pocket Prairie” [http://www.katyprairie.org/buildpocketprairies/] on Katy Prairie Conservancy's website. This page includes tips on selecting and preparing a sunny site, finding plants and seeds, getting others involved, and then telling the story of your prairie.
In Texas, late summer and fall are the best times to plant a native garden. And summer is a good time to plan it and work on site preparation. Our mild winters give seeds and young plants time to become established before the long, hot summer hits.
Finding the right plants for your region is very important. One of my favorite books for inspiration is "Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region" by Andy and Sally Wasowski. A great resource for native seeds for your region is Native American Seed [seedsource.com]. Check out some of the articles at that site while you're there. The Bee Happy and Butterfly Retreat mixes are great for adding pollinator-attracting wildflowers to your prairie.
To deepen your experience with planting, collecting seeds, and buying and transplanting native plants get involved with your local prairie, native plant society or master naturalist group--you'll meet others involved with prairie projects. A Pocket Prairie Teachers Facebook group was formed by NPAT Director of Education, Della Barbato to create a network of folks working to create pocket prairies in the Houston area. Check it out!
To increase your plant knowledge, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin or go to wildflower.org. There's an educational page at Here in Houston [https://www.hereinhouston.org/coastal-prairies] that includes several area prairies (large and small) that you can visit for inspiration.
Pollinator Week is June 17-23. Check out https://pollinator.org/pollinator-week and find out what other actions you can take to help our pollinators.
Have fun with your prairie and share your stories!