An equally important goal for me in the garden is to feed our pollinator friends with un-adulterated food sources. Even though it sometimes makes my life a little harder, I choose not to use herbicide nor pesticide in the garden. **I do make a once or twice per year exception of using a targeted herbicide only on one plant: bindweed, to keep the insidious beast in check. I’m hoping after a few seasons I can mostly eradicate it and stop using herbicide all together. When I woefully do dose the poison, I ensure to do so before the bindweed ever flowers so it has little, if at any, affect on pollinators.
Dandelions. In the early spring, when there are limited pollinator food sources, I leave all the dandelions alone for the bees to harvest; replenishing their dwindling winter stocks. In my first years, I worked diligently to pull every last dandelion before they bloom, and in recent years I haven’t hardly pulled any. It makes no matter what you do, dandelions are going to thrive – it’s what they do. So I say embrace them! I’ve decided to save myself the hand-ache and I just pull the excess dandelion greens after the blooms finish (and hopefully before the puffballs form) and feed them to the chickens. Sweet dandelions get such a bad rap but are such darling, useful plants! They feed the bees, feed the chickens, and even feed us too in the form of delicious golden wine that tastes like a summer afternoon!
Early spring dandelions feed pollinators from March thru May, and for the summer months, I’m slowly working to establish many more pollinator-friendly plants in all the nooks and crannies not being used for people food. Again, I aim for plants that will freely self seed year after year as well as bloom all summer or at least in a staggered wave of blooms. I’ve so far had super-duper luck with columbines, marigolds, sunflowers, dill, parsnips, green onions, cosmos, milkweed, borage and calendula. Lavender and sage have also proven to be fantastic low-maintenance perennial foods. Taking splits from each sage and lavender plant from last year, I’ve been able to triple the number of food sources available for the bees in one season. At that rate, my little bee-feeding clones will be all over the property in only a few years and at the sexy low cost of zero dollars!
An obvious added bonus of these pollinator-friendly plants for us humans is the gorgeous splashes of vivid colors throughout the garden during the summer months!