Friday, March 16, 2012

Planting for Pollinators

Honeybee visiting broccoli flowers
Honey bees and other pollinators are essential for the production of many of the foods we grow and eat every day. These include fruits like blueberries, apples, and peaches, as well as many vegetables, including cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, beans, melons, and peppers. Throughout the year, these industrious insects rely on a wide variety of flowers, including weeds, to provide the nectar and pollen that are their food.  As gardeners we can promote pollinator health by planting a diversity of flowers to serve as nectar sources, as well as by simply allowing vegetables, herbs, and weeds to bloom in our yards. 

What you do in your own backyard can greatly affect pollinator activity and health in your garden, as well as the larger region. Including plants in your yard that attract and sustain honey bees and other pollinators can increase pollinator populations in your area and lead to higher vegetable and fruit yields in your yard and community.  

You may choose to include flowers throughout your yard as a way of supporting pollinators. Annuals flowers like cleome, cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers are excellent bee attractors. So are many herbs. Allow basil, fennel, oregano, chives, mint, and dill to bloom in the garden to bring in pollinators and beneficial insects. Cover crops like buckwheat and clover also do a great job, as do perennials like purple coneflower, agastache, joe pye weed, goldenrod, asters, and black eyed susans. 

Henbit, a common weed and nectar source!
Allowing winter vegetables like broccoli, kale, and mustard to bloom out provides a source of nectar early in season, a critical time for pollinators since few other plants are in bloom and changing weather conditions make them particularly vulnerable to food shortages. Many common lawn weeds also serve as often overlooked sources of early season nectar. Allowing winter weeds such as henbit, field pansy, and chickweed to mature in some areas of your yard will support pollinators in your community. 

If you have questions about protecting pollinators and beneficial insects contact your local Cooperative Extension office. In Pender County call 259-1235, Mon – Fri, 8am and 5pm, or visit us online anytime at, where you can post your questions to be answered by email using the ‘Ask an Expert’ widget!

Learn more! Read the whole article on the Pender Extension website:

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