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Spring has sprung in many places around the country, and even if you haven’t planted any seeds in your garden yet, you are probably thinking about warm-weather blooms. Nonprofit organizations that are focused on protecting our pollinators hope you’re considering bees, butterflies and birds when you plant your gardens this spring, and some are offering free seed packs of flowers pollinators love.
AltNPS — a coalition of employees from the National Park Service, other parks and governmental agencies, environmental scientists and the U.S. Forest Service — is giving away free packs of black-eyed susans and butterfly milkweed right now. It doesn’t get easier than this: All you have to do is fill out the online form with your address and request either black-eyed susan or butterfly milkweed seeds. That’s it!
I requested butterfly milkweed, because black-eyed susans are easy to snag at my local garden center.
AltNPS also recommends checking the pollinator-friendly plant lists for your own region or state at Xerxes Society. It’s sometimes overwhelming to go shopping for flowers when spring planting season comes around, but this makes it a lot easier to narrow down plants that should do well because they’re native to your region and also happen to attract butterflies and bees.
Just like bees and butterflies, bird populations are in decline, and all of these pollinators could use a hand from us in our gardens. If you’re looking for a more specific location than an entire region (Xerxes splits my home state of Colorado into three different regions depending on location, so it may be useful to narrow things down), then you might also try Audubon Society’s Native Plants listing, which lets you enter your ZIP code for a local list. This is extra helpful for folks like me because my native plants here at 5,000 feet are different from the ones found nearby at higher elevations.
Your local extension centers also have a wealth of gardening know-how to share.