For Immediate Release
Planting for Pollinators and Clean Water
by John Bly
You may have heard; pollinators are having a rough time. In 2015, American bee keepers lost four out of every ten colonies. Research suggests native pollinators have also suffered serious declines due to loss of habitat and overuse of pesticides. This is worrying. Pollinators contribute over 24 billion dollars a year to our economy and are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat.
You may have also heard; our lakes, rivers and streams are polluted. Most of the rain falling on our urban landscape is collected and directed to storm sewers, picking up more pollutants before entering the nearest body of water. Common pollutants include phosphorus and nitrogen, mercury and the chemical PFOS. Bassett Creek is impaired by too much chloride as a result of winter road salting.
What’s the connection? We need more native plants. The hard surfaces we live under and drive over don’t allow water to seep into the ground, nor do they treat the rainwater runoff they create. They also don’t supply any food or habitat to beneficial insects.
Most of the permeable surface we do have is taken up by turf grass, which does little for water quality and nothing for pollinators. Turf also calls for time- and energy-intensive inputs: fertilizer, irrigation, mowing, and pest control. Lawn clippings and excess fertilizer are easily carried into lakes by rain. Unfortunately, even many of the flowers we do plant are non-native and unfamiliar to stressed pollinators; some are even treated with pesticides that poison bees.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Minneapolis declared its own Pollinator Resolution in August and will begin planting more native flowers and cease large-scale applications of pesticides this year. Local government organizations continue to support clean water projects through cost-shares and grants—including 100 Metro Blooms raingardens in North Minneapolis since 2009.
You can take steps too. One elegant solution is to install a raingarden—a depression in your yard planted with deep-rooted native plants—and route water from gutters and driveways to it. Other steps could include turning all or part of your yard or garden over to native plants; using less fertilizer on your turf and letting it grow taller (its roots generally grow as deep as it is tall); reducing your use of salt in the winter; or replacing asphalt or concrete surfaces with permeable pavers.
If you’d like to learn more about clean water, pollinators, and what you can do on your property to help, consider attending a Metro Blooms workshop in the coming months. More information and registration can be found at metroblooms.org/workshops.
John Bly is a Minnesota GreenCorps member serving with Metro Blooms.