Many vegetables require pollination for successful development. You don’t need a beehive in order to achieve successful vegetable cultivation – instead consider encouraging native bees (such as mason bees and bumblebees), honeybees, butterflies, moths and flies to do this work on your behalf.
Plant Flowers That Are Sure to Attract Pollinators
Pollinators are an integral component of any vegetable garden. These busy insects move pollen between blooms, helping plants reproduce and produce edible plants such as fruits and vegetables that we enjoy eating. Unfortunately, pollinator populations have been declining, which makes it even more crucial that we do everything possible to support their survival.
Plant flowers that provide nectar and pollen sources. Some flowers even deter harmful insect pests, making them ideal companions in any vegetable garden setting – examples include chives, parsley, cilantro and dill – making for ideal pairings with squashes, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.
An effective way to lure pollinators into vegetable beds is to intersperse your vegetable beds with flowers such as marigolds, nasturtiums and zinnias that bloom at roughly the same time as your vegetables – they provide an irresistible buffet for pollinators!
When selecting flower varieties, it’s essential to keep in mind the needs of various pollinators. For instance, some species of bees may prefer easily accessible pollen and nectar sources over double flowers with multiple layers that make pollination harder for pollinators. Therefore, it may be prudent to avoid double flowers as pollinators may find them harder to access than single ones.
If you want to really make your garden inviting for pollinators, consider planting bee houses; these small structures can be found online and at most gardening stores. Bee houses provide pollinators with shelter and rest areas near their vegetables for easy access; you could also leave out areas with low-growing ground covers that wild bees can use as shelter and nesting areas.
Plant Nectar-Rich Plants
As you enjoy a juicy red tomato, sip mint lemonade or nibble on some heirloom carrots, remember the importance of pollinators in producing those vegetables. Pollinators include bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, moths and even bats and birds which help plants reproduce by pollination.
Plant a mix of perennial flowering shrubs and herbaceous perennials near your vegetable garden to attract pollinators. Aim for flowers in bloom throughout the growing season, as well as plants providing nectar, pollen, larval host species for butterflies, beetles and other insects that provide nectar, pollen or larval host species for these pollinators species. Multiple flower types will attract pollinators species of all sorts since each has different preferences.
Honey bees tend to prefer blue and purple flowers, while bumble bees prefer white, yellow and pink blooms. Hummingbirds too enjoy nectar-rich blossoms – particularly orange, pink and purple varieties – though all hummingbird species appreciate blooms of all colors.
Tomatoes and zucchinis can self-pollinate, while other plants require pollinators in order to set fruit. Planting an assortment of flowers around these vegetables will ensure proper pollination.
For instance, when cultivating blueberries you should plant flowers like anise hyssop, dill, oregano and fennel to attract bees that specialize in pollen transference. This will attract small solitary bees that help move pollen around.
Pollinator-friendly companion plants can be found at any gardening store or online retailer, not just as decorative additions to your veggie patch but also as beneficial additions that improve soil quality, enhance growth and repel pests – for instance planting tomatoes alongside basil can help repel nematodes while interplanting marigolds with beans or cucumbers can repel carrot flies. Native and wildflower varieties will tend to attract more pollinators while leaving areas uncropped will also attract more bees than closely managed gardens.
Plant Native Plants
If you want to create a pollinator garden, try selecting native plants that grow naturally in your region. That way, pollinators will recognize them and quickly find food they need; moreover, using native species will allow your garden to blend into the surrounding landscape instead of looking like an awkward vegetable patch filled with random blooms.
When selecting flowering natives for your landscape, make sure you select a range of colors. Different pollinator species prefer specific hues; offering this rainbow will attract as many local species as possible – for instance bees prefer yellow-white-blue flowers while bumblebees often favor larger blooms with more surface area for landing.
Consider planting flowers of various shapes; many bees tend to prefer tubular, bowl-shaped and flat-topped blooms. Finally, include flowers that bloom throughout the season to provide bees and butterflies with a consistent source of nectar throughout their travels.
Pollinator gardens should contain native grasses and ferns as well as any non-invasive species which might otherwise take over your space. Be wary of any species which might take over too quickly!
Other perennial plants suitable for pollinator gardens include swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), blazing star (Liatris), wild indigo, sage, yarrow, lupine purple prairie clover and phlox. You could also add annuals like alyssum, buddleia dahlia marigolds nasturtiums and zinnias into your pollinator garden to attract moths and bats!
Make a Bee Bath
Pollinators will flock to your garden when given easy access to clean drinking water, so creating a bee bath is a simple yet inexpensive project that you can complete using items found lying around the home or garage.
Position your bee bath so it will not be knocked over or overturned by wind, animals or children, and keep it away from deep bodies of water such as ponds or swimming pools, where bees and other pollinators could become trapped and drown in them without an escape route.
To create your own bee bath, locate a shallow container such as a dish or bowl and fill it with pebbles or any small objects that will stick, followed by clean and fresh water. Keep it shallow enough that pollinators can easily dunk their heads in to drink up water using their tongues (proboscises). Sit back and watch as pollinators come flocking in for a sip!
Make your bee bath more beautiful by placing blossoms among the stones – this will provide bees with a landing site as they return from collecting nectar at their water source.
Another option for pollination-needy vegetables is planting sun-loving flowers nearby, especially blue ones – as bees cannot see red they’re particularly drawn to them! Double-flowered cultivars should also be avoided as their prolific petals make accessing pollen almost impossible for bees.
Make a Bee Hotel
Bee hotels are an effective and simple way to attract native bees and other beneficial insects into your vegetable garden. Simply collect hollow stems from plants, then arrange them in wooden structures as nesting bundles for bees to use. Although you can buy premade hotels online or from stores, if you prefer creating your own bee hotel out of natural materials like bamboo canes, reeds and old plant stems (see image below), natural materials tend to hold moisture better and mold doesn’t form. Plastic straws, paper tubes or glass may collect moisture or mold over time causing moisture buildup or mold growth in the long run compared with this method!
Position your bee hotel near plants that attract bees; that way they can find food and nectar more easily. Be patient as this process may take months before all nesting materials become occupied with bees.
When it comes to setting up your bee hotel, spring (March onwards) is usually the optimal time. At this time of year, potential new inhabitants will be most active in searching out homes – thus giving your hotel its best chance for success!
When building your bee hotel, start by creating the frame from untreated wood and screwing it together. Next, gather hollow stems (you may also snip some short lengths of plant stems for faster assembly), stuff it with them and use various sizes of holes for different species to make up a variety of sizes of holes to support bees and insects over the winter season. Keep in mind that bee hotels should only serve as temporary habitats; after autumn has come around it should be disassembled and stored away to make room for their overwintering survival.