Protecting Our Pollinators

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Star jasmine is an evergreen vine that prefers some shade. The fragrant blossoms fill the June air with their sweet scent.
    • Cage or stake tomatoes while still small so that you can train them as they grow.
    • Cover cherry trees with bird netting to protect your crop.
    • Roses bloom all summer with their abundant flowers in so many different colors. Choose some now when you can see their lovely flowers.
    • Attract hummingbirds to your patio this summer with hummingbird feeders, so you can enjoy their iridescent beauty and charm. The new Big Gulp™ holds 40 oz. and is easy to fill.

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. The new neonicotinoids pose the latest risk. They are a new class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine, and are much more toxic to insects than they are to mammals, birds and other higher organisms. Though they don’t normally kill bees directly, they may impact some bees’ ability to forage for nectar or find their way home to the hive.

Targeted insecticides, such as insecticidal soap, Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), neem oil or pyrethrins 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. 

The Importance of Bees

Friday, July 11th, 2014 by Jenny Watts
    • Mulch blueberry plants with aged sawdust and feed with cottonseed meal or an acid fertilizer.
    • Set out zinnias, cosmos, impatiens and begonias for lots of colorful flowers all summer long.
    • Earwigs are out and about and hungry. Control them with the new “Sluggo Plus”, or diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the plants, or go out after dark with a flashlight and a spray bottle of Safer’s Insecticidal Soap. One squirt will put an end to the spoiler.
    • The “Wave” petunias make wonderful hanging baskets for full sun. They come in purple, bright pink, reddish-purple and pale “misty lilac.” They can also be used for a colorful summer ground cover.
    • Cage or stake tomatoes while still small so that you can train them as they grow.

The Importance of Bees

Bees are extremely important to gardeners. Without them, we would not have fruit to harvest. Peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and beans are pollinated by bees. Watermelons, cantaloupe, cucumbers and squash require bee pollination to set fruit. Strawberries, apples, cherries, plums, peaches, pears, berries of all kinds and grapes need bees for pollination.

Three types of bees do most of the pollinating: honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees. There are 1600 species of native California bees, 26 of these are bumblebees and most of the rest are solitary bees. Honeybees come from Europe.

California native bees are great for your vegetable garden, and bumblebees are great pollinators of tomatoes. You can add flowers and shrubs to your garden or landscape that will attract the bees. In so doing, you will be helping to sustain these valuable insects and, as a reward, you will enjoy bumper crops in your own orchards and vegetable gardens as well.

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.

Flowers clustered into clumps of one species will attract more pollinators than will individual plants scattered through the area. Where space allows, make the clumps four feet or more in diameter.

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.

Some of the best pollen sources that bloom in the spring are California poppy, calendula, larkspur and wallflower (Erysimum). A planting of mixed spring wildflowers will give you many fine bee plants. Manzanitas, flowering currant (Ribes), Oregon grape (Mahonia) and wild lilacs (Ceanothus sp.) are good shrubs for early in the season.

There are many good choices for late spring and early summer. Yarrows of all kinds attract bees, as do catmint, penstemons, lavenders, lupines, thymes and borage. Bush anemone (Carpenteria californica) attracts several kinds of bees and huckleberries are good bee plants. Rosemary is very attractive to bees and so are elderberries.

Midsummer choices include gaillardia, echinacea, coreopsis, germander, salvias, verbenas and asters. Basil, carrots and herbs left to flower, cosmos, bachelor buttons, squash and pumpkins will all attract bees to your garden. Rudbeckias, sedums and sunflowers will provide forage for the end of summer and into the fall.

Plant native plants, if possible, to readily attract our native bees. 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.

Saving the Bees

Friday, April 10th, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • 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.