Fall planting can begin now, in August while it’s really hot and humid. That’s because now is the time to take stock of what is feeding your honey bees during the nectar dearth.
This time of the year, the abundance of nectar rich spring and summer bloomers have past their prime. If your bees are relying on the clover in your lawn, they may be struggling to find food sources during the nectar death. That makes this a good time to consider adding mid to late summer plants that support honey bees while they await fall aster and goldenrod (pictured together in cover photo).
At my house in central Maryland, I see honey bees sipping nectar from coneflowers, sunflowers, salvia and cosmos but the biggest crowds clamor to my summersweet bushes, mountain mint, anise hyssop, butterfly weed, Joe Pye Weed and blooming herbs like thyme and oregano.
Two books I like specific to honey bee plantings are “the Bee-Friendly Garden” by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn and the newly released “100 Plants to Feed the Bees” by the Xerces Society. Both books are good resources to help you choose some plants to add to your landscape to support bees whether you have them or not.
Fall is a great time to plant as the watering demands are less intense, making it easier for new plants to get established from the shock of transplanting. Choosing native plants like some of the ones I listed above is not only easy on you as a gardener because the plants are adapted to our local weather, soil and pests, but they likely support lots of wildlife beyond honey bees which is incredibly rewarding.
Taking stock in where your bees are finding sustenance now, noting any gaps in blooming plants will help you determine what type of plant(s) you may like to add to your landscape. Take a closer look at some options and determine if you have the right space and growing conditions for plants blooming during that gap, then when the planting bug bites you in spring or even this fall, you’ll know what you want to look for before stepping into the nursery or a plant sale where you can easily be sidetracked by the overwhelming array of choices.
While the heat and humidity of August keep us languid while outside, I encourage you to take a slow, observant stroll around your yard, watching your honey bees and determining where they’re finding sustenance. Providing forage sources is not just a great way to support our bees, but a delight to watch when they actually utilize your offerings. Happy planting!
“…to everyone who tears up their front yard to plant big chaotic wildflower gardens, to farmers who think hedgerows and wildflower field borders are just as important as crops, to urban planners and landscapers who turn gray and lifeless concrete landscapes into corridors of biodiversity…” – the dedication of “100 Plants to Feed the Bees”, the Xerces Society
I'm a backyard gardener, beekeeper and chicken mama in rural Maryland where I embrace native and pollinator friendly plant offerings absent chemical interventions. Clovers, dandelions and wild violets decorate my lawn in a different kind of beauty, one that embraces nature's offerings and gives back to the wildlife surrounding me. My small vegetable garden provides organic fruits and vegetables to my family, and often to nature's marauders. My chickens eat organically and free range with supervision. My honey bees don't follow my rules because in essence, they're not my bees. I just own the equipment and provide lodging in hopes of harvesting a little honey each summer along with the bounty of produce available from my garden, farmers markets and grocery stores from their vital pollination services. I earned my master gardener certificate from the University of Maryland Extension Services in 2014 and began beekeeping in 2012. What I've learned along the way is that our choices matter and there's always more to learn.
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