A Renter’s Guide to Planting a Pollinator Garden

I have always been a gardener. Growing up, I was inspired by my mom’s love for plants both indoors and outdoors. I knew that one day, I would do the same in a home of my own. Unfortunately, the reality for many people my age is that we are far from being homeowners with our own gardens and backyards. This has meant that I haven’t been able to garden in the many houses I’ve called home over the past few years since becoming a student at the University of Guelph. 

Luckily for me, my work at Reep Green Solutions came in handy when I moved into my new rental this past January. I got into a conversation with my landlord about my job, and about how important (not to mention easy) it is to support our pollinators with a native garden. After that conversation, my landlord felt comfortable giving me the chance to plant one in our backyard. 

Now, all I had to do was start! 

Step 1: Planning the location of my gardens

Ground Level

Penthouse Floor

My backyard is tiered – meaning that we have a “ground level” where our patio furniture is, and a “penthouse floor” which is a flat, grassy area at the top of the property. We don’t spend a lot of time on the penthouse floor of the yard, so I knew that my gardens would be on the ground level. I wanted to create symmetry on this level, so I settled on the idea of planting two in-ground strips on each side of the steps. 

Luckily, my landlord was okay with me digging a new garden into these areas. If your landlord is not comfortable with this, you can always buy or make above ground garden boxes to plant in! I got to work and dug out these areas, lining the back of the garden with stones from our backyard and adding new dirt. 

Step 2: Finding out the amount of sun these locations got 

Next, I had to find out how much sun these gardens would be exposed to throughout the day. This would help me determine which species I could buy to plant in it. 

To measure hours of sunlight the area got, I came out early in the morning and took note of what kind of sunlight the areas were exposed to. Then, I came back every hour to check on the sunlight levels until sunset. Although I didn’t do this, I also found a recommendation online to set up a time lapse on a phone or camera for a day so that you can watch it back. 

My garden gets full sun from 8:00 AM to around 3:30 PM, meaning that this area qualified as a full sun garden. Now, all I had left to do was to choose the species that would make up my garden and plant them! 

Step 3: Choosing the right species 

This step was probably the most confusing for me. I had done lots of gardening before, but was not well-versed in the huge variety of native, pollinator-friendly plants available to me. I had to do a lot of research to figure out which species I wanted in my garden based on the various heights, widths, and colours of these plants.

Luckily, there were a bunch of resources online that helped me figure out which plants would work best for my garden: 

To buy the plants I wanted, I Googled which nurseries around Guelph carried native plants. To my surprise, many nurseries now carry an assortment of species! I went to Belgian Nurseries to get my plants from their native perennials section. For a list of more nurseries that supply native species, check out our Contractor’s List.

After planting, I made sure to put a healthy amount of mulch around the plants to help keep the soil cool and moist while using less water. Now I’m starting to plant phase two of my garden, while many of the species I have already planted are in full bloom. I can’t wait to see the fruits of my labour pay off as more pollinators come to visit my garden! 

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