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.
We are having a warm autumn this year. The daytime temperature is still hovering above 50° F on most days but drops back to slightly above 30° F at night. We had frost for a couple of days early on in the season which killed off most of the garden. So there is not much left for the bees.
Honeybees being honeybees, they still come out looking for food when the temperature is above 50° F and to relieve themselves as well. We had fed them in mid-October but now we still worry that their food storage may not be enough for a winter that has not yet come. Since they spend more energy flying around instead of semi-hybernating in the hive during this time of year, they probably have gone through more of their storage than usual. So we are putting sugar syrup out on warm days. They know exactly where the feeder is and zoom right to it. They still go for any flowers they find blooming at this time of year: Alyssum, Chinese broccoli, Broccoli raab and…Saffron.
I should have grown more saffron but I always start small with any newbies. If it fails I haven’t wasted much. My fellow blogger suggested that I may be able to leave them outside since they are hardy to zone 6. I will leave one pot out as an experiment. If they are like other crocuses that bloom in spring (which I grow in the ground) they should be fine. Then I can have plenty of saffron for tea and cooking, and plenty of food for honeybees in late autumn.
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.
This year will be my second year as a beekeeper and hopefully I will do a better job than my freshman year. At this moment I just hope the bees survive this roller coaster winter. I know there are still some bees in the hive since I’ve seen dead bees on fresh snow all the time. I would consider it a small but vital victory if I have a new generation of bees born into and multiplying in our garden, as short as life is for them.
Well, since I can’t do much of anything outside or help the bees in any way I’ll just search through a pile of catalogs for plants that are good for bees that I can add to the garden. It just dawned on me that there are many other ways to provide pollen and nectar for bees than just growing plants I find in catalogs. While cataloging photographs I’ve been taken either in our garden or while on vacation, I’ve found some simple facts that I’ve overlooked regarding plants for bees.
There are water plants that bees love, like Waterlilies (Nymphaea) and Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera).
Letting some weeds flower. Bees forage on weeds such as Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), White Clover (Trifolium repens), Goldenrod (Salidago canadensis) and Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota). Weeds to us but food to them.
Let leafy vegetables flower. Vegetables that we seldom allow to flower because we eat their leaves, like Arugula (Eruca sativa), Broccoli Raab (Brassica rapa), Bok choi (Brassica rapa) and Mizuna (or Japanese greens). Last season I couldn’t pick them fast enough so they flowered and the bees were all over them.
I’ve been letting Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace grow for many years because I like their flowers. I think I’ll have to make friends with the Dandelions. Then add more of a Sedum I just found in a catalog (so far) for fall foraging.
Here are little happy bees on some plants mentioned above; the 1st three are from vacation on the other side of the planet: