5 Simple Ways to Support Native Pollinators & Beneficial Insects

When most people think of pollinators, they think of hives and honeybees.  However, honeybees are not native to Washington (or the United States, for that matter) and there are many, many other pollinators that are better suited to our climate and do the work of pollinating our trees, fruits, vegetables, flowers and shrubs.

This week, KCD staff has been at the NW Flower & Garden Festival sharing 5 Simple Ways to Support Native Pollinators & Beneficial Insects.  Soon hibernating pollinators like bumble bees and beetles will be emerging, so consider the following ways you can support their habitat:

  1.  Provide Native Plants – Native plants have been found to be four times more attractive to pollinators than non-natives and many butterflies only lay eggs on native species.  By planting a mix of annuals and perennials that bloom from early spring through mid-fall, you can ensure flowers in your garden that provide food for pollinators throughout their active seasons.
  2. Re-Think Chemical Use – Before you spray, make sure you truly have a pest problem!  Many insects are harmless or even helpful.  Information on pest control is available through your County Extension office or Master Gardeners.  If you must spray, be mindful of your timing.  Apply early morning before blooms open and avoid spraying the flowers.  Also, pollinators are less active in early mornings or late evening.  Remember, however, any chemicals applied to plants can be consumed by hungry caterpillars.
  3. Leave the Leaves – One of the most valuable things you can to do support pollinators and beneficial insects is to provide them with winter cover in the form of leaves and standing dead plant material.  Considering creating a sign to inform your neighbors of your pollinator-friendly choice!
  4. Re-Think Tillage – Just like raking leaves, tilling is an annual chore for most gardeners.  It is what we have always done!  However, tilling can disturb or even kill hibernating pollinators.  One of the most recognizable pollinator, the bumble bee, survives Washington’s winter chill by burrowing only an inch or two in the ground.  If you till to avoid compaction, consider growing cover crops or only digging in exact planting areas.
  5. Grow Cover Crops –  like leaves, winter cover crops of rye, vetch and clover offer habitat and protection from the elements for pollinators.  In spring, flowering clover is an early source of nectar and cover crops prevent compaction which limits the need for tilling.  (In order to avoid nuisance cover crop weeds, do not let flowers go to seed.)  In the backyard garden, cover crops can be “chopped” with a spade or hand turned with less disruption to pollinator habitat than mechanical tillers.

We can all take simple steps to protect pollinators and promote bio-diversity in our yards, gardens and open spaces.  For more detailed information about supporting pollinator habitat, visit  


February 9, 2018 / by / in
Growing A Taste of Home

Akasanjaku Beans, Ping Tung Eggplant, Molokai Spinach and Armenian Striped Cucumbers are all tastes of home for many of South King County’s newly arrived immigrants and refugees.  However, access to these familiar foods is both limited and costly.  Thirteen-year-old, Erica A., of Seattle decided she wanted to do something about that and has dedicated her Bat Mitzvah project to growing plant starts that will be distributed at community gardens across South King County this spring.  Erica and her father, Larry, met me to plant out the first batch of seed starts earlier this month.  The process involved a bacterial wash of the seed trays, filling the trays with starter mix and planting out hundreds of tiny seeds.  “It was exciting to hear about how even people who do not have their own land are able to learn about gardening, soil and conservation,” Erica observed.  She was particularly interested in International Rescue Committee’s New Roots Namaste Garden in Tukwila, where she hopes to see some of her culturally relevant plant starts grow into food that will provide access to fresh food and a taste of home.

A special thank you to Auburn Mountainview High School for the use of greenhouse space and to Horticulture Instructor, Regina Grubb, and her students for caring for the plant starts.

If you would like to help plant out seeds for community gardens, please contact me.

Melissa Tatro

Community Agriculture Coordinator



January 23, 2018 / by / in
Free Compost Available to Qualifying King County Community Gardens

It’s never too early to think about compost and amending your soil for the 2018 growing season.

KCD has FREE GroCo compost and delivery made available through our partnership with King County to qualifying community gardens. To find out if your garden qualifies and to apply, download an application:…/KCD-GroCo-Compost-Blank-Application.pdf

For more information about GroCo compost (made with Loop® biosolids) can be found here:

January 8, 2018 / by / in
Lend a Hand – MLK Day of Service

Looking for ways to engage with your community on MLK Day of Service?  Several community gardens are looking for volunteers to help with infrastructure projects, garden clean up and winter prep.  There is a task for every skill level and a great chance to spend time with family and friends.

These community gardens are holding work parties on Monday, January 15:


Hillside Community Garden is holding a Refugee Community Garden Work Day from 9 am to 12:30 pm.  Your participation will help efforts to convert an acre of paved parking lot space into a garden paradise  where refugees, immigrants and local community members can gather to grow culturally appropriate foods that promote a healthier lifestyle, improve food access, foster economic independence, and build community.  More Information and Registration Here.


Volunteers are needed at Elk Run Farm from 10 am to 2 pm to grub out blackberries, sheet mulch and turn under cover crop for early March planting.  Elk Run Farm grows food year-round on an acre of converted golf course to supply 12 area food banks with fresh fruits and vegetables.  The farm holds regular work parties throughout the growing season.  More Information and Registration Here.


There is never a shortage of things that need to be done at Sustainable Renton Community Farm.  From 10 am to 2 pm, join United Way volunteers to help spread wood chips along pathways and weed beds and perimeters.  In addition to offering year-round gardening spaces, Sustainable Renton Community Farm grows food for local restaurants and has a “pay what you can” Farm Stand.  They are passionate about food justice.   More Information and Registration Here.

December 20, 2017 / by / in