Happy Earth Day from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden! It’s been 50 years since the first Earth Day in 1970, and we’ve learned so much about our planet and how to care for our environment since then. I’m so proud that our Zoo that is a leader in sustainability and is working to ensure that people have the resources we need to be more ‘green’ ourselves. One of my favorite conservation programs the Zoo is leading is the Plant for Pollinators Challenge. I’ve always loved pollinators, and I was inspired when I learned all the ways I could help them.
The Zoo started the Plant for Pollinators Challenge in 2019 in response to decreased pollinator habitat and pollinator populations. Pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are responsible for one third of the food we eat. I hadn’t realized how necessary pollinators are for our agriculture, economy, and a healthy environment. The Plant for Pollinators Challenge encourages people like us to plant pollinator habitat to help pollinators and our planet.
One of the main goals of the Plant for Pollinators Challenge, sponsored by Simple Truth, is to make it easier for people like you and me to plant pollinator gardens by providing us with resources to help us be successful. One of the most important aspects of pollinator habitat are the plants. Since some plants are more beneficial to pollinators than others, it can be intimidating to decide what to plant.
Thankfully, the Zoo’s amazing Horticulture Team has already figured that out for us. They have provided a list of plants that grow really well in the Greater Cincinnati area, and are great for pollinators. Whenever I want to choose a plant, I just look at the recommended plants to help me decide. I can even look at the Zoo’s advice on planning a garden and taking care of it to help my not-so-green thumb.
Another thing I love about the challenge is that you don’t need a lot of space to have a pollinator garden. If you’re like me and don’t have a big yard, you can still participate in the challenge. You can consider using a window box, or just a couple potted plants on a patio or balcony. You can also consider volunteering at a community garden or help family and friends with their pollinator gardens. I got my mom a pollinator-friendly plant for her birthday and helped my grandmother register her garden.
Registering your garden online after planting helps the Zoo’s conservation mission. It helps the Zoo see which areas have pollinator habitat, and what different species of bee or butterfly we are supporting. Over 1,100 people registered gardens in the first year of the challenge, and you can join them! The Zoo’s goal is to register an additional 500 gardens each year. You’ll also have the option to purchase a garden sign to show your neighbors how awesome you are!
If you are struggling to find some of these plants there are many local garden centers that carry the Zoo’s Best plants for pollinators brand. I also love the Zoo’s occasional native plant sales at the Zoo’s Bowyer Farm in Mason, Ohio, sponsored by Klosterman Baking Co. All of these resources helped me be a better friend to pollinators and our planet, and I hope they can help you as well! Happy 50th Earth Day!