Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Don't Be a Fool: Start Planting Your Bee Flowers and Herbs Today!

 Reading the Charts: what to get planting in April by Madame Beespeaker

The West Coast Seed planting charts are very useful resources, but you've got to know how to read them to organize your planting. Let's have a look at what you can plant on April Fool's Day in Vancouver. I've marked the time-sensitive plants with an asterisk. And don't forget to do a celebratory bee dance in honor of the first day of our frost-free planting zone (fingers crossed). A honeybee landed on my jacket in the street today--a sign that the bees are celebrating the warmer temperatures.

Bee Herbs:

Borage: If you want to plant bee porridge for bees and take advantage of those beautiful edible blue star shaped flowers you can sow some today. Go for it! The sun is shining and in May the bees will be thanking you.

*Catnip: this is just at the juncture between being able to start seeds inside or sow directly into the soil outdoors. I will be doing both because of my slug issues. If you're a plant hunter then find some unusual varieties of catnip for your garden. Catnip is such a persistent bloomer it makes a good gap-filler for succession bee gardening.

Chives: Bees love chive flowers and you have four options: transplant the seedlings you started earlier or purchased in stores, start some inside, or sow direct. Or just buy a big pot of chives in a couple of weeks in the garden store. Also, don't forget to grow or buy garlic chives because they bloom later in the season and they're great in Asian recipes. Let your alliums bloom for bees.

Cilantro: Sow some outside now and then every three weeks until the end of July for continuous bee bloom and beneficial insect action. This is a great plant to integrate into your veggie garden even if you don't like the taste--just let it bolt for the bees!

Fennel: Fennel doesn't really like to be transplanted so you can start sowing it where you will want it to be permanently. Keep in mind it is alleopathic--and needs a little island of its own. Fennel and mint make a great tea for dodgy tummies.

Lavender: You could grow it from seed, if you have the patience of a saint, but why not buy a nice plant or six and put them out for the bees? Put it in a nice warm, sunny corner to release the fragrant oils to attract bees to your garden like a MAGNET.

* Mint: Start any of your mints inside today or sow direct. Think of the mojitos. If there's a junky corner of your garden where nothing grows, try peppermint or lemon balm.

Oregano and Thyme: Start some oregano and thyme inside. Buy some oregano and thyme in May. Do it all. Oregano and thyme are great for all sorts of bees. And oregano oil cures just about everything except existential angst.

Rosemary: Buy plants for the bees. Transplant in May. They are blooming right now and the honeybees love them. Put a sprig in the bathtub with epsom salts to ease aching muscles.

Sage: Start some sages inside: pick ones with small blue or purple blossoms for bees and larges red blossoms for hummingbirds. Give a bundle of dried sage to your favorite beekeeper to use in their smoker. Perennial sages are some of the bees bee plants in town. They are an excellent investment.

Bee Flowers:

Agastache: I've found that these seeds work best treated like wildflowers (sown direct in fall or early spring), but the chart says start inside now, and transplant in May. This is one of Madame Beespeaker's favorite heritage bee plants. You can grow purple agastaches for bees and red/orange agastaches for hummingbirds.

Alyssum: Start some inside today or sow direct in May/June. The annual alyssum is also a great plant to buy lots of little pots to put around your veggie and flower beds as an insectary plant. Perennial alyssum is a good spring bee plant.

Calendula: Sow direct now for blooms that will last until the fall frosts. You can also start these inside now--it's a great flower to plant with young children.

*Cone flowers: Start your echinacea inside today or wait until mid May to direct sow. Keep in mind that they are perennials, so require DEEP PATIENCE. Purchasing these plants is really worth the investment, but gardeners who like a challenge can find native varieties to grow from seed.

Cosmos: Sow direct outside until mid June.

California poppies: Sow direct until the end of May. These can be integrated into vegetable gardens and bumblebees love them.

Marigolds: start inside and/or buy some from the stores to plant as nematodal sentinels around your veggie bed. Don't buy the double varieties. Purchase the pollen!

Poppies: Poppies are popular for their pollen. Sow direct where you want them to appear. They don't like transplanting. The perennial varieties are best for bees and help fill in the "June gap" when suddenly there isn't a lot out there for the bees.

Sunflowers: The chart says sow direct mid April, but I'm starting some inside now. Sunflowers are all-you-can eat buffets for bees. Purchase the pollen--avoid the teddy bear variety and go for heritage sunflowers. Gardeners who like to challenge themselves should look into growing perennial wild sunflowers.

Sweet Peas: Sow direct until the end of May. (Not a bee plant per se, but we all LOVE sweet peas!!!! I have occasionally seen hummingbirds and bumble bees in sweet peas.) Did you know that perennial sweet peas are edible? I've seen bumble bees and leaf-cutter bees in the perennial sweet peas.

Zinnias: Sow direct now until the end of May. Hummingbirds and bees will love them and visit into the late summer. Fall bumblebee queens love zinnias.

Asters: And don't forget to plant asters this year. I'm going to try to grow some from seed, but it's really worth investing in asters because of their long bloom time, their broad appeal for several kinds of native bees and the late season forage when not much else is blooming.

If you follow the link to the West Coast Seeds planting chart you'll see they now have charts for other regions including the Prairies, which is very helpful!

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