navajo
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LURING IN THE POLLINATORS

Good day all!

A bit of background first. I live on a mountain with rocks and sandy clay soil in Northern Virginia. The first few years we lived here I tried ammending the soil and using the time honored row gardening with dismal results.

A couple of years ago I switched to Square Foot Gardening (modified) and had great results the first 2 years, but last year, I got NOTHING! A few late tomatoes (I know everyone had problems with tomatoes last year) but I got not one squash or cucumber! I believe that it was because I saw NO bees last year! OK, that's not true, we have about a bazillion wood borers but they're no help :)

We were toying with the idea of bee keeping but with so many bears here we can't even have bird feeders. So this year I am trying to bring in the bees. I planted a strip in the side yard with wild flowers (yes, this was before I read the thread about how bad the boxed seed mixes can be! :evil: ), and am putting in a flower bed in the front yard.

I also want to plant some flowers in the garden itself. I have Nasturium, marigold, and Lavender that I will put in the corners of the squares but I also want to plant Borage in the garden.

WHEW! Now on to the question (FINALLY! :lol: ). If I want to plant borage in with the tomato, squash, and cucumber plants in the squares, will it grow too tall and create a problem, or will they all just mix together and be happy?

The "beds" for the maters, squash and cukes are 2' wide by 16' long facing NW to SE in full sun.

Sorry for being so long winded but want to give as much info as possible.

Thank you all for the time and all the help so far! This is a GREAT site!

Tom
Last edited by navajo on Sat Apr 24, 2010 4:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

TZ -OH6
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Don't worry too much about the bee keeping for vegetables, honey bees are not good pollinators of most vegetables. "vegetables bees" are after pollen, not nectar. Important pollen bees are tiny irridescent halactid sweat bees (tomatoes esp.), bumble bees, and squash bees (look like honey bees).


The problem I had with planting "bee flowers" (cosmos, nausturtiums etc) is that the plants grew so slowly from seed that by the time they had flowered it was mid-late summer and the vegetables were done flowering. However I do have very early wild alternatives here that start growing from roots as soon as the snow thaws. 1) Dandelions (I let the yard grow high in the spring before the first cutting so that I have lots of clippings for the garden, the neighborhood probably doesn't like it, but screw 'em.) 2) Wild carrot = Queen Annes Lace...feeds hoverflies, ladybugs and halactid bees. 3) Dame's Rocket. These are usually blooming before the tomato flowers open (last frost date).

Pollen from these early flowers allow the bees to reproduce more babies early for more bees later in the season.


For me, Minnesota Midget mellon puts out a lot of flowers before other mellons, cucumbers, and squashes, pulling the wild "squash bees" into the garden. It is compact and can be grown in a container.

I also noticed that alot of bees (all three types) were loading up on the pollen on my sweet corn tassels. Because it is wind pollinated, corn produces more pollen than most anything in the garden.

navajo
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TZ -OH6 wrote:Don't worry too much about the bee keeping for vegetables, honey bees are not good pollinators of most vegetables. "vegetables bees" are after pollen, not nectar. Important pollen bees are tiny irridescent halactid sweat bees (tomatoes esp.), bumble bees, and squash bees (look like honey bees).


The problem I had with planting "bee flowers" (cosmos, nausturtiums etc) is that the plants grew so slowly from seed that by the time they had flowered it was mid-late summer and the vegetables were done flowering. However I do have very early wild alternatives here that start growing from roots as soon as the snow thaws. 1) Dandelions (I let the yard grow high in the spring before the first cutting so that I have lots of clippings for the garden, the neighborhood probably doesn't like it, but screw 'em.) 2) Wild carrot = Queen Annes Lace...feeds hoverflies, ladybugs and halactid bees. 3) Dame's Rocket. These are usually blooming before the tomato flowers open (last frost date).

Pollen from these early flowers allow the bees to reproduce more babies early for more bees later in the season.


For me, Minnesota Midget mellon puts out a lot of flowers before other mellons, cucumbers, and squashes, pulling the wild "squash bees" into the garden. It is compact and can be grown in a container.

I also noticed that alot of bees (all three types) were loading up on the pollen on my sweet corn tassels. Because it is wind pollinated, corn produces more pollen than most anything in the garden.

You know? I don't think a day goes by that I don't learn something from this site and you fine folks! :clap:

Thanks for the info. Might have to rethink some of my (off the wall?) ideas. :lol:

Will definitely look into the midget melon.

Thank you!

Tom

garden5
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Wow, that was really interesting. One thing you could try is to hand-pollinate things like tomatoes and peppers and pumpkins if you really want to ensure pollination before you attractant flowers bloom.
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navajo
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garden5 wrote:Wow, that was really interesting. One thing you could try is to hand-pollinate things like tomatoes and peppers and pumpkins if you really want to ensure pollination before you attractant flowers bloom.
Yeah, but for that I'd have to get up out of my chair and go outside! :lol:

Just kidding. I was reading up on that through the winter too. But one of the reasons I am doing more flowers this year is because of the ongoing honey bee problems. I realize that my little yard with flowers won't really help much, but it is a start. I have also convinced a couple of people at work to stop the chemicals and plant more flowers for the same reason.

Baby steps I guess.

Thanks for the reminder about hand pollenation though. Will try some of that this year also.

Tom

Susan W
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A variety of flowers are good for the senses. With a mix have variety of colors, bloom times and insect attracting.

I would hesitate on borage. From what I have heard likes itself. In my mid-south climate could be all that is left in the garden!
Have fun!
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rainbowgardener
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This is my first year of growing borage too, so I can't comment much. See how it goes. I have heard that it "freely self-seeds." But it is big and easy to recognize, shouldn't be hard to pull out extras that pop up. But having been warned, I will work on not letting too much of it go to seed.

Thanks, TZ, that was a good post about the difference between bees looking for nectar and bees looking for pollen!
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navajo
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Well I figure it can't self seed any worse than my tomatoes did last year! I must have missed a bunch that hit the ground because there are HUNDREDS of volunteer tomatoes out there this Spring. :lol:

I might let a couple mature to see what I get since I mostly only planted hybrids last year (Celebrity, Early Girl, etc).

I just bought a packet of borage (and the midget melons) and am goint to give them a try. If they start taking over, I'll just keep them thinned or yank them out. I feel like gardening is mostly just a big expeiment with some HOPEFULLY tastey results :lol: .

Thanks for all the input!

DoubleDogFarm
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1) Dandelions (I let the yard grow high in the spring before the first cutting so that I have lots of clippings for the garden, the neighborhood probably doesn't like it, but screw 'em.)
Screw'em, :lol: I like your attitude. You should bring in chickens next. :wink:


My question on "LURING IN THE POLLINATORS" with flowers. Why would the bees go to the unappealing squash, cucumbers, and not just stay with the more attractive. :?:

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rainbowgardener
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Watch the behavior of bees.... once they are in your garden they never stay on one flower, they go from one to the next, to the next to the next, checking everything out. The trick is to get them in your garden which is where the bee-attractive flowers come in.
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applestar
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Here's an excellent native bee bulletin from Rutgers:
https://www-rci.rutgers.edu/~insects/NativeBeeBenefits2009.pdf

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rainbowgardener
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Great link, but where's our beautiful golden honey colored honey bee?

https://brownback.senate.gov/graphics/KansasGraphics/honeybee-1.jpg

I didn't see any pictures that looked like what I am used to calling a honey bee.

I guess the apis mellifera comes in different color varieties, some lighter than others?
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applestar
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Ah, but the link is for NATIVE bees. Honeybees are European... or African.
According to the folks I met yesterday, there is a significant increase in native bee activity -- and consequently, their population -- due to the decline of honeybees because the honeybees had been aggressively out-competing the native pollinators for resources. It was an interesting point that hadn't occurred to me before.

DoubleDogFarm
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and I didn't see our orange butt bubble bee. Maybe its a westcoast bee.

[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/Daffsandbee012.jpg[/img]

For your fruit trees encourage Mason or Orchard bees. Blocks of wood with 5\16 holes drilled in them. Hang them in the trees.

TZ -OH6
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Don't be disappointed if you see bees look at flowers and then move on, or even pass up entire plants. Flowers release pollen a little bit at a time, so bees scent mark the flower they get pollen from. The scent wears off after a while, but while it is still detectable the bees know that it is not worthwhile to land. Pollen release is also dependent on time of day. Squash flowers open near to dawn and some of the squash bees even have huge eyes to fly in the dark in order to be at the flowers first. On the other hand, tomatoes don't release pollen until mid morning so there may be no bees at all around them at 8-9 am, and then at 10:30 the bees are all over them, and gone again around 5PM. So if you are looking for bees on yout tomato plants before and after work and don't see any that is why.



You can buy or make nesting boxes for some of the bees. Info is on the internet because they use them for greenhouse pollination. I don't know how species specific the designs are though. It wouldn't surprise me if suburban areas with lots of manicured lawns and little in the way of weedy/wild areas have few native bees.

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applestar
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TZ -OH6 wrote:It wouldn't surprise me if suburban areas with lots of manicured lawns and little in the way of weedy/wild areas have few native bees.
I have to post a follow-up, but keep an eye on [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=24399]this thread[/url].

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jal_ut
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Not trying to pop any bubbles but.......
Tomatoes corn and peppers do not need insect pollinators.

Sometimes bees will work pepper blossoms and some cross pollination occurs because of it, but you will get a fine crop without the bees.

Bees love to gather pollen from corn. This benefits the bees, but not the corn.

All species of bees forage for both nectar and pollen. The nectar is the calories and the pollen is the protein. Bees need ample supplies of both. They cannot raise young without both.

All squash, cukes and melons need insect pollinators. Yes, honey bees do a fine job of pollinating these crops.
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rainbowgardener
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The post that started this thread on previous page was about squash and cucumbers:

"but I got not one squash or cucumber!"

which do need insect pollinators.
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TZ -OH6
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Yes, its true that tomato and pepper blossoms will self pollinate fairly well from their own loose pollen, but greenhouses bring in bumble bees because studies have shown a statistically and economically significant increase in fruit set even over mechanical buzzing devices. The tomato flower is designed to be "buzz pollinated" so during hot humid weather when pollen is clumping, the bees may be able to either shake loose pollen or transfer it from their bodies to the flower. This could possibly fruitset for finicky varieties such as Brandywine. I have very poor fruitset during mid summer when bagging blossoms for seed, but the unbagged flowers set fruit much better.


Honey bees need pollen, but their primary goal is to build up honey reserves to get the hive through winter so they seek out nectar rich flowers and collect the pollen from those, and tell the rest of the hive where those flowers are. Other bee types just need enough nectar to feed themselves so they go for all types of flowers. I do see honey bees at my squashes, but they are in the vast minority. I just think its easier to support a large community of solitary bee species than it is to support a whole hive of nectar needy honey bees.

navajo
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WOW! I drop out for a couple of days and this thread just took off! I LOVE it! :D

Yes, I was mostly talking about squash and cucumber and the lack of almost ANY bees in my yard last year.

I have to admit that I'd like to try keeping honey bees at some point in my life but just can't swing the expense of an electric bear fence right now.

This past weekend I did plant a bunch of flowers and am crossing my fingers for the return of ALL bees this year (except the dang wood borers! :twisted: ).

Thanks for all the insights and suggestions as well as the education!

Tom



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