The growing season is winding down and most of the planting has been done for spring. This includes more plants for “hover island”. A part of this process is doing the research to first figure out what we are trying to achieve and secondly choosing, ordering and planting the plants for this plan.
At lot of time is spent with online searches. One of the things I was struck with is the strategy that is used by seed companies who offer seed mixtures for beneficial gardens. For a time I actually considered offering a seed mixture customized for strawberry production. The strategy seems to be to throw in seeds for all plants known to attract beneficials including bees, predators and parasites. One interesting thing about the mixtures that I looked at was that many included what I would consider weeds. Several times I thought to myself, I wouldn’t want my neighbor planting this mixture. Next thing would be their weed seeds infesting my lawn and garden.
This realization helped me to adjust my planning. Because strawberries are an early season crop I started my search for plants that attract beneficials AND bloom early to it can benefit strawberry production and early season pest control. There are a few shrubs and trees that bloom early but I’m looking for short term annual and perennials.
Before actually making choices from the short list of early spring flowering plants I wanted to make sure that attractiveness to mason bees is considered. It turns out that having plants bloom all spring and summer is not necessary for mason bees. The adults basically live about six weeks. A spring strawberry crop here in zone 7 blooms in mid to late April. So, now we’ve bracketed the time frame. We were looking for plants attractive to mason bees and other beneficials during April into May.
What we came up with are golden alexanders (Zizia aurea), bulbs like anenome and scilla and dandelions. We have been growing dandelions for edible greens so they will serve double duty.
One more thought for today …. orchardists who are using mason bees to pollinate crops like almonds have noted something very interesting. They recommend mowing the dandelions while the almonds are blooming because the bees need to be pollinating the almonds, not foraging on dandelions – weeds. I plan to keep a notebook with me to jot down observations on:
- date of flowering for each plant
- insects on the plant and flowers
- do the bees prefer another plant over the strawberry