Jumping into spring with pollinators in the Ruby Valley
Pollinator initiative kicks off
Ruby Valley Conservation District is gearing up for warmer weather by kicking off our pollinator initiative for the year. This program was originally started by the Lake County Conservation District located in Ronan, Mont., and has been making its way across the state. RVCD joined the initiative last year with the help of MSU-Extension, Twin Bridges and Sheridan FFA and Jackson’s Garden. Our goal is to increase and improve pollinator habitat throughout the valley. RVCD is doing this by starting pollinator gardens at the Sheridan and Twin Bridges FFA farms and at Jackson’s Garden. Along with these three sites, our goal is to educate the public and supply free seed mix for community members to start their own pollinator gardens.
Pollinators enable 75% of the world's flowering plants and 35% of our food crop to reproduce. Native pollinators not only provide important ecosystem services that enable our survival, but they also play a critical role in supporting native plant and animal communities. To date, scientists have identified 450 species of native bees in Montana, with the actual number estimated to be nearly 1000. Montana is also home to the largest number of bumble bee species in the country. With factors including habitat loss, lack of food resources, climate change, and improper pest management practices, many species of native bees are seeing population declines. Pollinator gardens can help to counteract population decline by providing ample forage and habitat for pollinators throughout the year.
Overcoming tough conditions, RVCD set up three demonstration gardens last year with the help of our partners and volunteers. Through these demonstrations, we hope to encourage and educate the public about how they can add pollinator habitat to their own gardens. This year, we have already added several trees, shrubs, and grasses to our Jackson’s Garden site with the help of volunteers. Thanks to the help of Sheridan and Twin Bridges students, both of our FFA sites have been prepared and seeded. Students have also built wooden bee houses to add habitat for native pollinators at the site.
Are you interested in starting your own pollinator garden? With the help of NRCS Bridger Plant Materials Center and Gallatin Conservation District, we have both a native mix, and conservation mix of pollinator-friendly seeds FREE for landowners to use in creating their own pollinator gardens. Both mixes include flowers with different colors, shapes, heights, and bloom times to attract a wide variety of pollinators and provide a food source all season long.
Our Native Pollinator Mix includes wildflowers that are native to Southwest Montana, as well as the option to include a native grass. Our Conservation Pollinator Mix is primarily made up of wildflowers and grasses that are not native to SW Montana, but they grow well in our climate and serve as beneficial pollinator habitats. The Conservation Pollinator Mix was created for locations that may need to compete with noxious weeds that are already established in the plot area, or for larger plots where weed mitigation would be more difficult. The non-native species in this mix do not become noxious themselves. Aside from using our pollinator seed mixes, a few steps anyone can take to improve pollinator habitat on their land include planting native trees and shrubs, using a mix of plants that bloom at different times of the year, reducing or eliminating chemical use, providing a small amount of water for pollinators in a shallow dish, leaving dead tree trunks or leaves in place to provide habitat, and supporting land conservation and pollinator initiatives!
If you would like to claim your free pollinator seed mixes, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or (406) 842-5741 x 104. To learn more, view our planting guide, and check out other informational resources, go to rvcd.org and navigate to the “Pollinator Initiative” page under “Links and Resources.” Happy planting