Getting started

Getting started with pollinators can be as easy as planting season flowers to attract bees and butterflies. From there, you can plant perineal shrubs that bloom in different season as well as creating habitats like domestic bee and bat houses.

1. Create a pollinator habitat team

  • Choose at least 4 people and define their roles (team leader, budget coordinator, volunteer coordinator, publicity, etc).
  • Follow the Habitat Team Planning Sheet to help

2. Create your vision

3. Gain necessary approvals

This step can take a while, so get started early! You will need the approval of:

  • Your Principal
  • The School District Facilities department (requirements vary depending on your district). for example, in Austin ISD – Fill out the AISD Schoolyard Improvement Application Form and in San Antonio ISD, contact the department of Plant Maintenance and Operations
  • If you know about procedures in another school district? Help us update our info!

4. Inventory your site

· A map or school campus blueprint (baseline mapping activity) - note buildings, utilities, power lines and water sources)

· Existing vegetation and structures (note trees and garden areas already exist)

  • Soil tests (for type and quality)
  • Water Flow/Topography data (contour and slope of site)
  • Traffic Pattern information (existing pathways, and where people walk)
  • Sun/Shade pattern
  • Adjacent and historical land use – could give you inspiration for what to build in your space
  • Evidence for the current presence of wildlife
  • Other site information to note:
  • Is there Bermuda grass present? If so, and you have decided to solarize to remove it, be sure to start this process during the summer months

5. Draw up your design

Your design will be based on the data collected in your site inventory. Make sure your plan includes accessibility to people with disabilities

Follow the five steps below to include the key components of pollinator habitat:

Step1: Provide food sources

Nectar and Pollen Sources: Pollinators need a diversity of nectar and pollen sources to sustain them. How do you provide food for pollinators? Choose plants that provide pollen and nectar sources from early spring to late fall and with various flower shapes. Avoid hybrids and cultivars; usually native plants are the best providers of nectar and larval food. Planting in clumps rather than single plants is more attractive to pollinators. For information on specific plants, take the City of Austin Pollinator Challenge and get a FREE Butterfly Crossing sign.

Host plants: Butterflies need larval host plants like milkweed! Be sure to choose native milkweeds where appropriate and follow guidelines on tropical milkweed (cut back tropical milkweed in November so butterflies don't overwinter). [link to other host plants guide?]

Step 2: Provide water sources

Like all living things, pollinators need a source of water. You can provide this in your landscape via a birdbath, stream, butterfly puddling area, or small garden pond.

Step 3: Provide cover

Pollinators need places to nest and to overwinter. You can provide these in your landscape by adding in spaces of bare ground, man-made boxes, rock pile/wall, brush pile/logs/dead trees, shrub thicket - evergreen or deciduous. Also, one of the easiest methods to provide cover - leave garden cleanup until spring!

Step 4: Practice sustainable gardening methods

Safeguard pollinator habitat by using integrated pest management practices and reducing invasive plants.

6. Create a materials list and budget

Your list should take into account items like:

  • Plants
  • Trees
  • Soil, compost, mulch, decomposed granite, edging for beds, cardboard or weed cloth
  • Tools

7. Find resources

Some options for resources include:

  • Fund raise both for money and supplies donations. Visit our resource and funding pages for additional information.
  • Find volunteers
  • Order Materials

8. Plan work days and planting days

Try to engage the community and parents, take lots of pictures and get photo releases signed for all kids; have snacks and water available for volunteer work days too. Here is a sample planting day checklist.

9. Create a maintenance plan

Following are important considerations for your plan:

  • How often will you have workdays?
  • Who will notify volunteers and the school?
  • Will you have a sign with contact information for potential volunteers?
  • Who will refill water sources and puddling station?
  • Who will remove invasive plants?
  • Visit the Maintenance section for Pollinators for additional information

10. Plan a celebration

Certify your Pollinator Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation and/or through Monarch Watch, and then thank your volunteers and spread awareness of your garden space!