Planting for Pollinators

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Cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins were vegetables that we always grew on the farm. We had two main strategies that we used to increase our chances of maximizing our yields:
 
First, we only planted these heat-loving crops near our shelterbelts. The trees in the shelterbelts reduced wind speeds and provided a warm microclimate that these vegetables loved. Open fields were always cooler than fields protected by shelterbelts; plus, delicate, heat-loving crops like cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins tended to get beat-up in windy spots.
 
Secondly, we always had local beekeepers place their hives adjacent to these crops to ensure that they would visit the flowers and pollinate the plants. These cucurbit crops (as they are referred to) must have their pollen transferred from male to female flowers in order to fruit andas we all knowbees are terrific at this task.
 
In our own urban yards, encouraging bees and other pollinators to visit is not difficult if you choose the flowers that they like. Plants like...

Sunflowers – During blooming season sunflowers offer a rich pollen and nectar source for foraging honey bees, native bees, and any other garden pollinators.


At maturity, when the centre disk florets have dried up, these black-seeded sunflowers provide particularly oil-rich kernels with somewhat softer shells than others, yielding an abundance of nutritious feasts for birds of all sorts.


Zinnias & Cosmos – These two types of flowers are favourites of butterflies. Butterflies are attracted to blossom shapes and colours, so plantings should be made in mass blocks rather than a few isolated plants here and there.


Planting these flowers behind each other produces an ideal combination of flowers at differing heights, offering your visitors a choice of where to feed and rest.


Scarlet Runner Beans & Nasturtiums – Low, mounding, Summer Charm nasturtiums and tall, climbing, Scarlet Runner Beans are a sure fit for hummingbirds’ nectar-seeking bills.


These flowers offer an ideal combination of different blossoms and vegetation at varying height levels, providing your intended visitors with a choice of where to feed, rest, and roost.


Hummingbirds expend an enormous amount of energy for their size, and require an enormous amount of food—you can’t have too many flowers! After locating convenient nectar sources, these intelligent little creatures follow a foraging routine in a relatively small area (despite their ability to roam) and will return for ongoing meals from your garden.


Finally, asclepias (or "milkweed") is a plant that we get a lot of questions about from people look for a butterfly-friendly flower. Most known as a nectar source for monarch butterflies (a rare sight in Edmonton), milkweed is a favourite of other pollinators as well.

The Butterfly Mixture from Aimers Seeds is a good mix of flowers that attracts butterflies as well.  This mix contains a bit of everything for pollinators, including: alyssum, African daisy, bachelor buttons, milkweed, candy tuft, columbine, purple and Prairie coneflowers, plains coreopsis, cosmos, flax, California poppy, and Siberian wallflower.

~Jim Hole