One of the concerns for today's farmers and gardeners is the decrease of beneficial insects and pollination for vegetable crops. Many farmers and even home-gardening enthusiasts have resorted to establishing their own honeybee hives to guarantee pollination of their gardens. This is a wonderful practice, but it can be costly and time consuming. For some small gardeners, the risk of loss and cost of establishing hives can outweigh the benefits.
As I pondered ways to increase pollination and attract more beneficial insects to my gardens, I asked myself, "Self, how did they do it in the old days?"
I received an answer and some ideas a few weeks later while conversing with a client of mine.
I work as a caregiver to the elderly. One of my clients is a lady that is a spry, 99 years young. She grew up on a farm here in NC. One day while sharing gardening stories, I mentioned the honeybee enthusiasts, and she looked at me rather strangely. When I asked her what she thought of that, she replied, "Well, why not just let Mother Nature bring in the bees?"
She then went on to tell me about her mother's wildflower patches. She said back in her day, neighbors and church folks would share different flowers from their gardens with one another. Exchanging clumps of flowering plants was commonplace. The local hardware stores also sold packets of wildflower seeds. Her mother would stick the clumps here, there, and everywhere around the edges of their yard and crop fields.
She also told me about the wild blackberries growing the length of their property. Every other year or so, her father would clear out a path behind the blackberries so that the children could pick from both sides of the brambles.
"Now I know that wild blackberries attract bees, 'cause I got stung many a time picking berries for my mom to make jam," she added to her already encouraging story.
This started a vision in my mind of my gardens being edged in lovely flowers and raspberry plants. Basically, this would be a great form of companion planting, not to mention add beauty to our veggie crops. I have had some enthusiastic sage plants go to flower on me, and I noticed the bees come and enjoy the flowers. I also noticed the beauty it added to my garden. But it didn't dawn on me to allow some of my herbs to go to flowering intentionally.
Old-fashioned, back-in-the-day methods can be our intentional path to natural, organic gardening. And wouldn't it be wonderful to also get back to sharing these lovely plants with our neighbors?
Some pollinator enticing flowers and herbs to consider: Aster, Fennel, Bee Balm, Basil, Sage, Mint, Lavender, Thyme, Nasturtium, Cosmos, and many more.
I will be redesigning my garden this year and incorporating wildflowers and berries to invite pollinators to my crops. After all, Mother Nature often does know best!
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