Saturday, May 17, 2014

Get in in the Ground! Victoria Day Plants for Bees

It's Gardenpalooza weekend! Celebrate queen Vikki's b-Day by planting for bees and beneficial insects. This weekend is like Christmas for gardeners in Vancouver where the temperature has warmed up to go full speed ahead. My mantra now is get it in the ground (GIITG). When I ask the gardener at Welk's corner store when they're getting alyssum she tells me it should be in any day now. "If you see it, buy it," she tells me, "otherwise it will be gone." She's absolutely correct. Don't hesitate, just go for it. There are some good sales happening around town, so take advantage of it to get some excellent deals.

What you should buy this weekend:

For the permies, ie the folks who are taking up lawn and breaking up concrete to grow food for the world, I see lupins in your future. . .

To fix nitrogen in the soil, buy some lupin plants this weekend. They will bloom very soon and feed our bumblebees and hummingbirds. The plants will be a good investment as they will provide seeds to plant in the fall for more plants. You'll never need to buy lupins again and you can share them with your neighbours.

Seeds permies are planting now:

Sow crimson clover and vetch in between your food plants to feed the bees and the soil. Buckwheat is a great green manure plant to sow at the back of the beds and calendula helps keep the soil moist and prevents roots from growing. It blooms for months and you can eat the flower petals and make them into skin-soothing lotions. Buckwheat, vetch and calendula seeds are easy to save and share.

Plant bush beans in between your perennials to fix nitrogen in the soil and scarlet runner beans in front of trellises for hummingbirds and bees. The Germans say "don't plant beans too deep for they must hear the church bells ringing!"

For those who think a year ahead:

Is your garden bereft of flowers right now for the bees? Plant kale all over the place right now and by next May their flowers will be bringin' in the bees. You can also make pesto, smoothies and salads with the sweet blossoms. I'm teaching kids how to eat them like candy.

Think about flowering plants for the fall: You can get helianthus, asters, and goldenrod much cheaper now than later on in the season.

For the foodie:

 Just pack your garden with flowering herbs to have an inspired summer of cooking and serve up side orders of nectar and pollen to the bees at the same time. Think of this as a toofer weekend--many herbs are two for the price of one and remember it's better not to buy root-bound plants. Smaller can be better when choosing plants. Trust me, they will grow! Buy both regular chives and garlic chives because they bloom at different times and provide awesome food for all kinds of bees. Try a new herb you've never cooked with before. I dare ya!

Buy a healthy cilantro plant, let it flower for the bees and go to seed so you can replant it in succession every three weeks. Even if you think it tastes soapy, use it as a companion plant and feed the bees.

For the Urban Homesteader:

If you're thinking of planting fruit-bearing shrubs, DO IT NOW so they will be established before the hot weather hits. Make sure the root ball is moist before you plant it and keep that soil moist (not soggy) until it roots in. Think of growing a flowering vine around the chicken coop to give your girls some shade--choose something that is not toxic for your peepers.

For the Master Gardener:

Try new forms of tried and true bee plant to see if they attract bees as much as the heritage varieties or get the heritage varieties and compare them with cultivars you have.

Examples: Mondarda, asters, goldenrod, penstemon, anise hyssop, mints, salvias, and sunflowers.

Plants for other beneficial insects and doctor plants that help keep your garden in balance: alyssum, nasturtiums, yarrow, dill, fennel, sea holly.

Also consider letting a couple of each of your veggies go to flower for the bees and beneficial insects: parsnips, carrots, onions and brassicas.

If you see someone gardening this weekend, give them a big smile and thank them for making the world better for our bees!

Pssst: Choices Markets near 16th and Trafalgar has some good deals on that end Sunday night.

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