Wildflowers and Native grasses

(Question)

We are planning to plant wildflowers and native grasses on a 44 ft x 3 ft on the south fence line of our backyard. A raised vegetable bed is already built along the east fence line. The property is in Scarborough, ON close to lake Ontario. The vegetable garden and the wildflower one are very close to each other and to the deck/patio. Should we be concerned about the attraction of stinging insects or other insects or animals that might disturb the surrounding structures or the outdoor life of our neighbours and ours? Is having a naturalized area close to your living area a good idea?

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(Answer)

Thank you for writing to the Toronto Master Gardeners. I love your idea of starting a native wildflower and grasses border, which would be a perfect complement to your vegetable border and also look gorgeous when the plants are in bloom. It will certainly attract many pollinating insects, which will help pollinate your vegetables too. Birds, both local and migratory, will be attracted to the seedheads on the maturing flowers. Your garden will be full of life.

Most pollinating insects have no interest in humans or in human food. Our patio is right next to the perennial border, and my family take our meals outside whenever we can. No bee has ever been tempted to wander away from the flowers and  check out the bipeds or the food. Most visitors are not even aware of the high level of bee activity in my garden.

Other insects are a different matter. Yellow Jacket wasps are notorious for wanting a share of human food and drink, while tiny little flies have a way of diving into the beverage containers for a drink. They are more annoying than harmful, so usually I do little more than covering up my food and drink and wafting them away. However, if I have young children visiting or am hosting a party, then I set out a wasp trap a few days ahead, well away from the deck, and that takes care of the wasps efficiently. I also have a permanent decoy nest in the garden, just in case, to deter any wasps from nesting on the grounds. So far, there has been a peaceful co-existence between human and insect. No one has ever been stung.

The ecological, aesthetic and practical benefits of having a wildflower and native grasses border far outweigh the inconvenience of tolerating the Yellow Jacket wasps, I believe. There are many products on the market that can help in the management of potentially disruptive insects and other pests. We wish you the best of luck in establishing your wildflower and native grasses border.