After my mini-rant yesterday about seed catalogs, someone asked on Facebook what new things we are trying this year. It’s a several part answer. Because we need so many plants for permaculture design for the orchards, we are putting in a mini-nursery this spring. It will take a while to grow out from seed all the perennials, but when your plant list is in the thousands, it’s the only practical way to get it done.
Tops on the list are plants to feed the bees when the apples aren’t in bloom. That would be about 50 weeks out of the year. For about a third of the year, the bees are huddled in their hive and living off their honey, but the rest of the time, they will need food. They say that bees can forage for miles but it stands to reason that the closer they stick to home, the more trips to the hive they can make and thus more honey.
We are still learning what flowers here and when, but I am interpolating the general order of bloom from what we grew in Salt Lake. There’s a period between the lilacs and the summer flowers that is hard to cover with herbaceous flowers, so we are hoping eventually the later blooming trees will fill that role. We will encourage some alfalfa to bloom as early as possible, and go from there. So what else are we planting? Not all of this is going to be from seed (like the trees) but we are going to propagate where we can.
- Nepeta (catmint), one of our earliest bloomers, and if sheared back, will bloom again.
- More clovers, especially the perennial white low-growing varieties.
- Honey locust trees, which have extra duties as nitrogen-fixers and coppiced support trees for grapes.
- Linden trees, which will take years to flower but is said to be a big bee favorite.
- Chestnut trees, if only because we have tasted an amazing chestnut honey. It could work. If not, it gets replaced by mulberry.
- Monarda, lavender and hyssop are all bee magnet perennials. Plant once, I do nothing and it comes back next year-I like that.
- I’ve been promised some native penstemon seeds. These will be excellent for the bumblebees, if not the honeybees.
- All of the carrot family, especially perennials like angelica, bronze fennel and lovage. Dill may be another plant we can grow to cover the late spring gap.
- Perennial arugula: this may be our wonder crop. It is a deep-rooted, drought tolerant, edible plant with yellow flowers that seem to keep coming until frost.
- Sunflowers: there are so many reasons to grow this plant. The geese devour the leaves as treats, the stalks produce massive amounts of shreddable mulch material, the bees and bumblebees are all over it. And it makes me happy, especially at sunset when the sun is behind them. I don’t need even one more reason than that.
What are you planting for 2015? Have you considered planting for the neighborhood pollinators?