Providing a drink for pollinators

After touring gardens and spending way too much time on the internet, I have a new project for the garden. I’m creating a small water source for pollinators. Yes, a homemade butterfly dish.

This project is so simple it could be a child’s craft, but that doesn’t mean it is not effective. Who needs complicated when a simple design works?

It may sound like a silly project, with the rain levels breaking records this summer, but fall tends to be dry and all creatures deserve access to fresh water.

My first plan was to buy a traditional cement stand and bowl and place it in the garden. I had the perfect spot in mind. It was in dappled shade where there was enough sun to keep the water clean and enough shade to make it a comfortable place for a quick drink.

A neighbor had divided and shared their knee-high grasses with me, and I planned to plant them around the perimeter and have the water in the middle. In my mind, this was going to be lovely- until I read that bird water sources should be open so predators (the neighborhood cats and an occasional coyote) cannot hide and surprise the birds.

New plan.

I could have moved the cement stand to another location. I have always found the cement bowls on intricate stands beautiful, but they never seemed like the right fit for my little garden.

Then I remember the crafty ones I have seen in other gardens. They are almost childlike, but the simplicity works for my space.  

I have seen a few choices that are both easy and effective. These are made with very few supplies, most with pieces found in the garden shed.

If the height is what you are after, try this. Grab a wire tomato cage, the kind you slide down over the plants to act as support as they grow. You can buy them in different colors or spray paint the silver ones.

Next, measure and find a terra cotta saucer that fits the top circle. The cages come in different sizes; most are between 11-15 inches across—pollinators like shiny colors. To attract them to the bland terra cotta, glue a handful of colorful marbles or glass pebbles to the bottom. Gluing the pebbles is important. Consider gluing the saucer to the cage. Just think about the night a deer moseys through and knocks it over; picking up marbles would be time-consuming. Also, cleaning the tray is much easier if they are secure, and you will want to clean the dish occasionally.  

Another benefit of the stones is to give the butterflies and bees a resting spot while they drink. Imagine looking into the garden and seeing pollinators refreshing at the dish—what a great photo op!

If the tomato cage is not your style, the simple solution is to turn a terra cotta pot upside down and rest the saucer on top. So simple. This is also a chance to show off your artistic skills. Grab a paintbrush and decorate the container.

If this is still a little too arts and crafty for your garden, look around. I bet you have a pile of bricks or stone pavers tucked in the corner. I do.  

Find a spot where they can be stacked. You control the height. Keep in mind you want stability.  If using bricks, add a paver or flat surface to the top; this will give you a spot to place your bowl. 

This could be a cement, glass, or pottery bowl. For now, I will use a large terra cotta tray.  

I know it is September, but there are a few more months before freezing temperatures set in, and garden creatures still need water. Be careful with your containers this winter. Most will not withstand the freezing weather.

I will still plant my new grasses and create a visual focus, but the pollinators water will be closer to my herb and perennial flowers.

As much as I would enjoy a bubbling water foundation or small pond – I know that will probably not happen. By doing this project now, I will enjoy it for the fall season and have it ready to go in the spring.   I think I have found a simple solution that will make me and the pollinators happy.