Preparing a Space for a Pollinator Garden


I am taking over an empty garden that is covered with 2 to 3 inches of black wood chip mulch. Below that is a layer of black landscaping fabric. I would like to make a pollinator garden with the space, and it will be all perennials. How do I plant perennials (e.g. common milkweed seedlings, and transplanting large mature plants) in this? Do I keep the fabric and make holes to access the soil (and will perennials generate and establish in the surrounding mulch each year), or do I need to remove all the fabric and start with fresh ground (and perhaps put the mulch back over the soil?) I can’t see how plants will root and grow in 2-3 inches of mulch as a substrate, with fabric blocking access to soil underneath. Thank you!


Thank you for your question.

Creating a pollinator garden that will benefit bees and other insects is a worthy endeavour indeed!

Toronto Master Gardeners doesn’t recommend using landscape fabric. The link below outlines many reasons why:

Assuming you choose to rake back the mulch and and get rid of the landscape cloth, the next step would be to assess the quality of the underlying soil. Toronto Master Gardeners previously answered a similar question. Within the answer is a link to information regarding  “no-till” gardening, a method that will benefit your soil and save you time and energy. See below:

Also, you may want to test your soil to determine which soil amendments would most benefit your new garden. Simple test kits to determine soil Ph, and levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are available at most garden centres. A more detailed soil analysis is available through the University of Guelph. If you choose this route, it would be advisable to contact the lab to find out if any COVID restrictions are in affect. See below:

Once preparation is complete, you will be ready to choose suitable perennials for your new garden. Soil condition, light and exposure are prime considerations when selecting your plants. Toronto Master Gardeners have prepared a Garden Guide for Pollinator Gardens.

Good luck in your project!