encouraging pollinators

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sat, May 4, 2013 - 11:47pm

Bee on Basil. photo courtesy of Ace Clipart

Although some plants are pollinated by the wind (like corn) most are pollinated by insects. Bees do a large part of that pollination, and the best way to encourage them to visit your garden to work that magic on your crops is to have things blooming all growing season that they want to visit.

Now my husband and I are fruit and vegetable gardeners. Yet we have a 4-ft by 6-ft flower bed in the midst of our raised beds. Why spend so much space on non-edible things? We get a lot of joy out of it, nice floral gifts for others, cut flowers for inside the house, but most importantly - we get bees and butterflies. There is an apiary two blocks from our house, and while they provide plenty of healthy bees we provide part of the flowers they feed on in a chemical-free environment.

It helps to plant things very carefully so that something is always in bloom. Right now we have thyme and bee balm and three other types of flowers blooming. But most of  the year we depend on short marigolds that crowd out weeds under tall zinnias in that bed. Why? Because the seeds  for both flowers are very easy to save for the next year, and they are tough to kill. I threw in a little basil this year, and some bachelor buttons and daisies.  What are you doing to lure pollinators to your yard?

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7 Comments

treebeard's picture
treebeard
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 18 2010
Posts: 603
Killing Goldenrod

Now you've made me feel guilty.  The small meadow in front of our house had gone wild, it was full of honeysuckle, staghorn sumac and lots of goldenrod.   A good mearure of Rosa rugosa and russian olive too.  I have since cleared it and turned it into a hay meadow for compost.  We still have some of the wild roses and russian olives (there is a big debate about whether you should let the russian olive live) on the property.  In the fall the goldenrod used to buzz full of bees.

Last few years we have noticed that there seems to be a lot fewer native pollinators around.  Used to be when the russian olives were in bloom you could hear the whole shrub buzz from 20 ft away.  Now you walk up to examine it and you see maybe 5 to 10 pollinators, it's a little scary.  Hard to tell from local anecdotes though what the big picture is.

Were are making more of an effort to plant annual and perenial flowers though.  This year, for the first time, we ordered a bunch of flower seeds with our vegetables.  Our local transition group had a bunch of movies on  pollinators, and we are hosting a project a our local conservation center to teach people how to build nests fore mason bees.  We are contemplating starting some hives of our own, maybe in the next couple of years.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
buckwheat

When you get the bees, consider planting buckwheat - bees love it and buckwheat honey tastes divine.

sdmptww's picture
sdmptww
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 18 2008
Posts: 56
balancing weeds and planted stuff

I find my local bees are very fond of the "weeds" of the area, herbs and grasses.  And all of these tend to be blooming early.  Which generally means I leave my yard to grow until the early bloomers are done.  When I clear a new area I try hard not to do so much at one time and to allow the weeds to bloom in the spring.  I too recently cleared around 1.5 acres of what appeared to be mostly woody growth and thorny vines.  But the bees are at a decreased number this spring, regardless of my leaving the dandelions and other early bloomers alone this spring to make some amends.  I did plant a large patch of fall legumes with clover in it and that has made them happy.  I'm busy putting down some medicinal herbs and fruit trees, flowers and some annual crops.  This won't be the first time I've disrupted the bees, birds and butterflies but the major clearing is over now so we can all settle into living together.  Except for the moles.  I just want them to go somewhere else!

marky's picture
marky
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 27 2010
Posts: 33
Bees

We also plant a lot of flowers among the edibles, and some of the flowers are edible too.  Mostly borage, calendula, nasturtium in the veggie garden, with lots of echinacea, phlox, buddleia, lupins and asters around it. Plus lots of skunk cabbage and maples at the back of the yard for early pollen, allowing bees to get some protein in March.  Good to know that skunk cabbage has a purpose.

We have a couple of bee hives as well.  So far we have lost one hive each of the last few years, but fortunately on alternate years.  So it can get expensive with a new nuc each year per hive (about $125 around here). But it's worth it, both for the pollination and the honey.

Tycer's picture
Tycer
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 26 2009
Posts: 610
Goldenrod benefit
treebeard wrote:

Now you've made me feel guilty.  The small meadow in front of our house had gone wild, it was full of honeysuckle, staghorn sumac and lots of goldenrod.   A good mearure of Rosa rugosa and russian olive too.  I have since cleared it and turned it into a hay meadow for compost.  We still have some of the wild roses and russian olives (there is a big debate about whether you should let the russian olive live) on the property.  In the fall the goldenrod used to buzz full of bees.

 

Another benefit of goldenrod are the little red aphids that attack it. They attract voracious predator wasps that scour your garden veggies of herbivore insects.

I also heard that most people that think they are allergic to golderod are not. It's the ragweed pollen sticking to the goldenrod that gets them.

Buckwheat is a fantastic bee food for both spring and late summer/fall when forage is hard to find for the bees.

a1911guy's picture
a1911guy
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 24 2009
Posts: 7
Bee are ambivalent, but deer love it!

We keep a single hive.  They are a little "hot" -- maybe the African killer bee genes are migrating north to central Colorado.  Anyway, we planted a small plot of buckwheat near the hive.  The bees were only moderately interested.  But the week my wife and I decided to harvest the grain -- which we eat for breakfast -- the deer got into the yard and ate every bit of it before sunrise.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.  Or, in this case you can lead a honeybee to buckwheat, but you can make it pollinate.

Magnum03's picture
Magnum03
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 14 2012
Posts: 30
Ivy leaf geranium

I have different kinds of ivy leaf geranium all over. The bees love them and they flower all the time. I incially got them as aphid repellants. They worked fine, but then I noticed all the bees appearing, we didn't have bees before.

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