Saving the Bees

    • Azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias provide lots of beautiful flowers for the shady spring garden. Choose them now.
    • Spring feeding of trees and shrubs can begin now. Mulch with manure or apply fish emulsion or commercial fertilizers.
    • Prepare for planting season! Turn in cover crops and do a soil test if your garden had trouble last year.
    • Dahlias come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Plant the roots now for flowers this summer.
    • Hang up Codling moth traps now to reduce the number of wormy apples in your harvest this year.

Protecting Our Pollinators

More than 75% of flowering plants are pollinated by insects, birds or bats. Some plants need a specific pollinator, and others can be pollinated by a variety of insects. Most fruits and vegetables are pollinated by insects. With many of our pollinators in decline, it is important for gardeners to protect pollinators in order to insure good yields and good quality food.

We can protect pollinators by avoiding pesticides and providing food, water and nesting sites in our backyards and gardens. Bees and other beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings and parasitic wasps are easily killed by insecticides. Targeted insecticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), and soaps, oils or botanicals minimize damage to pollinators.

Since bees are major pollinators, you can help them by planting a bee garden. Bees like flowers, sunlight, warm temperatures and open spaces. Honey bees visit many different kinds of plants, while native bees are more particular.

  Since native bees are around all through the growing season, it is important to plant flowers that bloom successively over the spring, summer and fall. By grouping the flowers that attract bees together, you are more likely to draw bees to your garden. Gardens with ten or more species of attractive plants will attract the largest number of bees.

Wildflower seed mixes can provide forage in open areas. Perennials and annuals can be chosen so that there are always flowers in bloom. Some common plants that attract bees are cosmos, dusty miller, bachelor’s button, black-eyed susan, blackberries and sedum.

Choose several colors of flowers.  Bees have good color vision to help them find flowers and the nectar and pollen they offer.  Flower colors that particularly attract bees are blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow.

Herbs such as borage, catmint, mints, feverfew and yarrow attract bees. In open areas you can plant shrubs and trees like redbud, California bay trees, coyote brush, Ceanothus, white sage, and tan oaks. Native asters, penstemon, wood sorrel and California poppy are good bee plants.

Protecting pollinators has many advantages. Many of the same plants that feed bees, birds and butterflies also provide refuge for ladybugs and lacewings. You can have both better pollination and fewer pests feeding on your garden. California poppy, coriander, fennel, sweet alyssum and yarrow will attract these beneficial insects.

Weeds can also provide nectar resources for bees and butterflies, and should be tolerated whenever possible, and when they are not a fire hazard. Allow cover crops, on fallow fields and in orchards, to bloom before plowing them under.

Let your garden be a little “wild” with a variety of plants to make a bee-friendly garden.  What’s good for the bees is good for our fruits and vegetables and a good thing to do for the planet. 

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