As I mentioned in the previous post, I left some vegetables and herbs flowering for pollinators and for seeds. It also helps to draw beneficial insects into the vegetable patch. The downside is that these beneficial insects don’t discriminate, they eat anything they can grab, honeybees and bumblebees included. But we never have to spray our vegetables.
There are many more herbs and vegetables in our garden as both of us love eating fresh vegetables and drinking herbal tea. Rubbing fresh herbs in your hands for the scent is also very refreshing. I think the herb pollen that mixes in with the honey is also a good medicinal property.
Next will be flowers for bees from what we love to hate….weeds.
Did we really have a summer? Briefly. Most of the leaves are gone now and the plants are ready to take a rest. But some plants in the garden are still pushing out their last show of the season. I envy some of them when I do garden chores in a sweatshirt in a bracing chilly wind and see them with their bare branches and leaves or what’s left of them. And there are these, the ones that still put on a show for us:
This clump of Alyssum is self-sown year after year, self fed as well. I left them where they came up since they are very good at drawing in beneficial insects and smell like honey. This one is in the vegetable garden, draped over the raised-bed reaching for sunlight.
Another readily self-sown, Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), is loved by birds and bees. The second batch that sprouted up later this summer is flowering now. It can be really invasive but the American Goldfinch love the seeds and my honeybees love them too so I let them grow. Makes a great tea as well.
I have to pull a lot of Borage (Borago officinalis) out since one plant can take up a lot of space and they self-sow vociferously. The plants that sprouted in spring are long gone. These are the ones that came up in late summer. Aside from the blue star shaped flowers that look so lovely, the bees love them as well.
These Calendula still produce flowers because they are fenced in with the vegetables. Their relatives outside the fence were eaten down to the ground by deer and woodchucks.
This old garden rose ‘MME. Isaac Pereire’ continues blooming from late spring to frost. Deer have nibbled it’s tips and buds but missed this one. I will put a net around the plot next season so I can have more than three roses in fall.
For some reason deer won’t eat this rose. This “Knockout” continues to bloom from late spring through autumn, plenty of them. It has a lovely color that changes from salmon to pink as it matures. If it had any scent (nope, hasn’t any), it would be a perfect rose.
There are some Hollyhock, Garden phlox, Echanecea and Aster flowering here and there and that’s about it. The growing season is coming to a close again. Frost is predicted this coming Sunday. Where has the time gone?
Since I started keeping honey bees, the decision on what plants to add to our garden factors in the honey bees as one of the reasons. I used to think of fragrant, native, butterfly and bird friendly as reasons to choose a plant. Flowers that butterflies love is not necessarily good for bees. The butterfly has a very long proboscis, much longer than bee mandibles, so it can easily access flowers for nectar that the bee can’t reach. If I can find flowers that are good for both of them, it’s perfect.
The first group of plants that work well for both butterflies and bees are herbs. I have to let them flower, not just keep eating them and make sure to cut off most of the spent flowers. I let the mint set seed many years ago and it has been a mistake I’ve been paying for ever since. I have a forest of mint that I can’t get rid of. Though it smells nice and I can and do use it in many ways, it grows faster than I can consume or give away.
I made the same mistake last year with Anise Hyssop, but they’re easy to transplant. I dug the seedlings up and replanted them in a group at the edge of the property and they turned out pretty nice when they flowered. The American Goldfinches love snacking on its seeds so they help to reduce a burgeoning plant population.
A small variety of the herbs I grow is below and aside from being great in many food dishes, in salad and tea, they are also magnets for bees and butterflies.
Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a good source of nectar for bees. The flowers and leaves can be used in salad and tea. I love the smell of crushed leaves, very soothing.
Borage (Borago officinalis) has lovely star shaped flowers in blue, white and pink. I have both blue and pink in the garden, still searching for white.
As much as birds like to eat the Calendula (Calendula officinalis) seeds, there are still plenty left for self- seeding. The petals can be used in tea and salad or as a substitute for saffron as well.
I don’t think I have to write much about what we can do with the mint. I wish it wasn’t so invasive. But I no longer feel guilty when pulling it out and putting it in a garbage bag.
The bright Canary yellow of a Bitter Melon flower (Momordica charantia) has a sweet fragrance that is very strong on a cool morning. Bees, Hover flies and small butterflies love it.
I love eating vegetables especially a fresh salad just picked minutes ago from our garden. It’s not just tastier than store bought, but also makes me feel healthier physically and psychologically. The leafy vegetables hardly have a chance to flower, but when the weather gets really hot and we’re stuck at work, then they start to ‘bolt.’ I do let some of them flower just to get seeds for next season. That’s when the vegetables show their other beauty; not just the beautiful colors and textures of the leaves but delicate flowers in both color and design.
We love the the spicy and bitter taste of Arugula or Rocket (Eruca sativa). Salad would be pretty bland without it, but that’s just my opinion. Their beautiful pale yellowish/green flowers are edible.
Beautiful blue star of Borage (Borago officinalis) flowers are frequent by all type of bees. They’re not just beautiful but they’re also edible; look lovely in salad.
I let some of the Broccoli raab (Brassica rapa) flowers bloom to harvest the seeds. The bright canary yellow flowers add color to the vegetable garden and the bees love them too.
Chinese Broccoli or Chinese Kale (Brassica oleracea) is another leafy vegetable I grow. The leaf is sweeter than other kales and is great for stir-frying or to put in noodle soups.
The garlic flower, aka ‘Scape’, has a milder taste than the garlic head. I pick some of them when they’re small and tightly wrapped in tissue thin skin and use them in stir-fry vegetable dishes. The photo above is a much more mature scape. These little bulbs are good for pickling or planting. Although the garlic that grows from these little bulbs will not divide into cloves the first year.
Surprisingly the spicy Radish (Raphanus sativus) has these delicate pale pink flowers. The flowers and seed pods are edible but, for me, it would serve no purpose to eat the seed pods since I let some of them flower to harvest the seeds.
Green Onion or Scallions (Allium cepa), some may call it bunching onion, is the one we eat the greens, not the bulbs. The ones I grow have never set bulbs so I grow them from seeds that I collected the previous year.
After a long wait for fresh backyard salad, I can hardly stop myself from sowing seeds in the vegetable garden. As soon as the soil softens, judged by seeing weeds coming up, I put Arugula, Radish (Cherry Belle and French Breakfast), Pak choi, Mizuna, Kale, Swiss chard, Scallion, Lettuce, and Broccoli Raab in. The arugula is always the first to come up.
I also put Snap Peas in the soil directly. I find that they grow stronger that way than starting them in a container and replanting them. I just soak the seeds in water for a few hours, placing them between damp paper towels. The roots will sprout out in two nights. I drop the ones with roots in the soil and cover them. I don’t have to worry about hardening them. If they feel it’s the right time to poke shoots above ground, they will. They are already a couple of inches tall now. I will have stir-fry sized pea shoots in a couple of weeks.
Some self-sown Broccoli Raab, Borage and Calendula also came up. Last year’s Red Russian kale, Scallion and Radicchio looks pretty fresh and healthy. I can pick them while waiting to thin the seedlings (great baby greens for salad). I also picked my first Asparagus of the season last weekend and will have some more this weekend. Garlic is looking lovely at this time too. I have already fed them once.
Yes, the tomatoes have sown themselves again. They are just an inch above the soil surface right now, not big enough to be transplanted yet. I will take most of the Borage and Calendula out from the vegetable garden and transplant them along with the flowers.
Anywhere I turn there are signs of new shoots and leaves unfurling, another cycle of life has begun.