Step 4: Safeguarding Pollinator Habitat

Action 1: Eliminate Pesticide Use

Action 2: Remove Invasive Plants and Protect Native Plant Communities

Action 3: Additional Conservation Practices

Action 1: Eliminate Pesticide Use

“You, the gardener, are a steward of our planet. By growing ecologically functional plants that provide food, shelter and breeding ground for a wide variety of insects, birds, amphibians and reptiles, you create a stable, self-regulating garden ecosystem.   Most of the time, you can stand back and let nature take its course. Plant-feeding insects are held in check by their predators.”

“If a plant-munching insect must be controlled to avoid major crop loss, you the gardener must become the predator. Scout your garden carefully every day, and hand-pick and destroy hungry beetles and their eggs. Toss them in a bucket of soapy water. Use physical barriers like spun row covers or cutworm collars to keep herbivores off of your crops. Plant “trap crops” to lure plant-feeding insects away from your valued crops.”

                                                    Marjorie Peronto, Extension Educator 

What can you do to promote biodiversity and a balanced ecosystem in your garden? Here are some helpful tips from Marjorie Peronto:

  • By providing food, water and shelter for pollinators, you can turn your garden into a biodiversity hot spot where no insect is considered a “pest”.  
  • Spend time every day walking through your garden, looking closely at flowers and turning over leaves. Get to know the life in your garden.
  • Flowers that attract pollinators also attract predatory and parasitoid wasps, insects that prey on plant-eating caterpillars and aphids.
  • Remember that caterpillars are the primary food for garden birds, particularly nestlings.  If you want a garden filled with birds, you need a garden that supports caterpillars.
  • Get creative by using physical barriers (spun row covers, cutworm collars, wax paper caps) to keep plant-feeding insects off of your young seedlings until they get established.
  • Accept imperfection.  Plants with minor signs of feeding are an indication that you have a biodiverse garden!

If you continue to have trouble identifying the problem, your Extension office can help.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is supportive of proper and prudent use of registered pesticides. However, this certification is aimed at celebrating top-tier gardens that are designed as pollinator insect habitats. Therefore, eliminating pesticide use in the area being certified is required.

In order to certify, the following is required of your garden:

  • Ensure pesticides are not used in the area being certified

Action 2: Remove Invasive Plants and Protect Native Plant Communities

The legal definition of an invasive species, and the official position of the U.S. government, is “An alien species – not native to the ecosystem – whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”  (“Alien” refers to species not native to the ecosystem).

An invasive species can be any kind of living thing—a plant, fish, insect, fungus, bacteria, or even the eggs or seeds of an organism— that does not naturally occur in a specific area. By far most people encounter invasive plant species that endanger pollinator habitat and are an increasing problem in Maine.

Why are invasive species so bad for the ecosystem?

  • Out-compete native species for food or other resources
    (Example: Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) alters microbial activity in soils, increases soil pH, and reduces forest leaf litter.)
  • May cause or carry disease that affects the health of native species
    (Example: Hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect pest from Asia, kills Eastern Hemlock trees.)
  • Contribute to the decline of threatened and endangered species
    (Example: European starlings displace native cavity-nesting birds like woodpeckers.)
  • Prey on native species or prevent them from reproducing
    (Example: Norway maple from Asia and Europe seeds prolifically and produces dense shade preventing native species regeneration.)
  • Change entire food webs, decreasing biodiversity
    (Example: Purple loosestrife chokes out waterways by creating a monoculture.)

Did you know that out of the 50,000 introduced plants in the United States nearly 5,000 are wreaking havoc on our environment? Invasive species are second only to habitat destruction, such as by fire or land clearing, for displacing native plant and animal communities and altering entire ecosystems. Some invasive plants have been introduced accidentally, one example is mile-a-minute (Persicaria perfoliata) that is prolific in disturbed habitats; some species were introduced for wildlife benefits such as multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica); or for erosion control like Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica); or for medicinal and/or food use such as garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata).  Others have escaped from our gardens like purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), a Maine noxious invasive plant that devastates waterways.  Once they establish in natural areas their ability to propagate in several ways and to thrive in many conditions allows them to spread rapidly.  Because they have few or no natural enemies in their new home they can usually out-compete native plants. This upsets the delicate balance of local ecosystems and affects the insects and pollinators dependent on the natural habitat.

Some common garden plants that are on the invasive list are:

What can you do?

  • Avoid acquiring and planting invasive plants in your landscape. Be selective and research your plants prior to acquiring them to ensure you select native and/or non-invasive plants for your landscape.
  • Identify existing invasive plants on your property and initiate a plan to remove them.  If you have a woodlot or meadow on your property remove any invasive plants and protect existing populations of native plants.
  • Where invasive plants are removed, replant with native plants or seed in native plants as soon as possible.
  • Learn to identify and manage invasive plants by helping at your local park, preserve, or other natural areas with knowledgeable volunteers and/or experts in the field.

For more information and list of invasive plants in your area, click on the publications below:

In order to certify, the following is required of your garden:

  • Do not acquire invasive ornamental plants
  • Develop a plan to actively remove invasive plants

Action 3: Additional Conservation Practices

Conservation practices help preserve habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. Our Pollinator-Friendly Garden Certification program challenges you to implement conservation practices in your certification area or the surrounding area.

Please consider the following conservation practices:

  • Test soil before applying fertilizers
  • Leave lawn clippings and/or fallen leaves behind
  • Set mower blade at 3″
  • Tolerate “weeds” in lawn
  • Compost kitchen scraps and/or yard waste
  • Maintain a light layer of organic mulch at the base of trees, shrubs and perennial beds
  • Use drip or soaker hoses, instead of overhead sprinkler
  • Use a rain barrel or other means of capturing/utilizing rainwater to irrigate plants
  • Direct downspouts and gutters to drain onto the lawn, plant beds, or containment areas
  • Water plants only when necessary
  • Other

In order to certify, the following is required of your garden:

  • Implement at least 3 conservation practices

Application for Certification