I can remember as a teen seeing a picture in a social studies book of a person in Japan hand-pollinating cherry trees. The caption stated that in some parts of the world, farmers hand pollinate trees because the numbers of pollinating insects are low.
Nearly three quarters of the worlds flowering plants wouldn’t get pollinated without the help of pollinating insects. These insects include bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and even moths and wasps. In fact, anything that seeks nectar would be considered a pollinator.
If you watch the news, you may notice that pollinating insects have more than a few challenges to their survival. Monarch butterflies are on the decline and bees are affected by pesticides and colony collapse disorder.
If pollinating insect populations continue to dwindle, expect to see a sharp rise in the price of fruits such as apples, cherries, plums and pears. These fruits can be hand-pollinated, but the labor involved would be figured into the bottom line cost of the fruit.
As a container gardener, you can help support the health of pollinating insects by growing containers full of flowering plants that provide healthy, nutritious nectar for the insects such as milkweed, lavender, hibiscus, azaleas, begonias, daisies, black eyed Susan, asters, purple coneflower, basil, bee balm, catnip, fennel, hyssop, hydrangea, heliotrope, Mexican hat, salvia and zinnias.
You can also create shelter for pollinators. Wild bees are attracted to logs and dead trees. Butterflies prefer shady, scrubby areas and wet depressions of dirt or sand to drink from.
Avoid pesticides that will kill insects. These pesticides may get rid of undesirable insects in your garden, but they will also poison desirable insects as well. If you see undesirable insects such as aphids on your planters, you can dispose of them with a blast of water from your garden hose.
Making your container garden friendly to pollinators may not be the solution to the declining populations of the insects, but it can help.