We’ve all heard that bees are in trouble, but you may wonder why, and more importantly what you can do to support bees and other pollinators. In this episode of Granite State Gardening, UNH Extension’s Emma Erler and Nate Bernitz share proven tips and solutions for supporting pollinators on your property. This conversation is very practical, and gets into the kind of detail and nuance gardeners are looking for to go beyond basic concepts. Emma and Nate also cover a wide range of topics, discussing bees and what differentiates them from other insects, and different types of bees including but not at all limited to honeybees. You’ll definitely walk away from this episode with ideas you can put to practice.
· Featured Plant: Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
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Cover image by – Robert Durant
Transcript by Otter.ai
Nate Bernitz 00:00
Welcome to the Granite State gardening podcast, a production of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. We’ll discuss bees and pollinators somewhat interchangeably today as we cover everything from threats to how to make our yards and gardens more friendly to pollinating insects. But we’ll start by discussing bees and what differentiates them from other insects, and different types of bees, including, but not at all limited to honeybees. I should also note its pollinator week running through Sunday, June 27. We’re thrilled to celebrate pollinators with you, and appreciate you sharing this episode and what you’ve learned with friends and neighbors and also encourage you to visit pollinator.org to learn about how you can get involved with pollinator week, wherever you live and garden. Greetings Granite State gardeners. I’m Nate Bernitz joined as always by horticulturist and UNH Extension field specialist Emma Erler. Today we are shifting gears from controlling insects in the garden to supporting them, specifically, bees. Emma, I thought we could get started by talking about the different types of bees. I know you’re not an entomologist, nor am I. But I think broadly speaking, we can talk about the types of bees, roughly how many species are we talking about in New Hampshire, and just what’s going on with our native bees?
Emma Erler 01:34
Bees can be categorized in several ways, whether they are solitary or social species, or whether they nest in the ground or in a cavity, whether they build their provision their own nests, or actually parasitize the nests of other bees, and by their foraging habits. generalists are bees that gather nectar and pollen from a wide range of flower types and species. Most bees are generalists. On the other hand, specialists tend to use a single plant family are genus for their needs. of the 4000 bee species that live in North America, more than 90% are solitary, which means each female builds her own nest without the help of any other members of our species. In New Hampshire, there are an estimated 200 species of wild bees. And among the wild bees in New Hampshire, there are several common groups. These are the sweat bees, leaf cutter bees, mason bees, and bumblebees. And of course, also domesticated honeybees which aren’t native, but were introduced as livestock essentially.
Nate Bernitz 02:45
While it may seem obvious, identifying whether an insect is in fact a bee can be a challenge. Certain flies and wasps can be easily mistaken for bees and vice versa. Unless you have a trained eye, you may have to look pretty closely at an insect to narrow it down, which I know can be a challenge. wasps are typically streamlined and slender with long legs, whereas bees are less so while also generally being fuzzier. I look at behavior too because bees fly quickly from flower to flower, while wasps tend to take their time. And of course while some wasps do collect pollen, wasps are predators that hunt insects and spiders to feed to their young, while bees feed pollen to their young instead. You may be skeptical that you could mistake a fly for a bee or wasp, but do a quick image search right now for hoverflies. It’s amazing how much they really do look like bees. But flies have just one pair of wings while bees and wasps have two pairs of wings. When flies land on flowers, and yes many flies are pollinators, their wings typically fly flat rather than folded over their bodies like a bee would. Flies also have insignificant antenna, which is something I definitely look for. And unlike bees, flies lack noticeable bushy hairs on their hind legs, which bees use to carry pollen back to their nests. But be forwarned in the animal kingdom, and I’m highlighting hoverflies here, they generally mimic bees and wasps, insects that sting and also taste unpleasant so are avoided by predators, a win for hoverflies.
Emma Erler 04:20
And that mimicry, I think, is so incredibly interesting that you just mentioned. If you’re paying attention when you’re looking at who’s on flowers in the landscape, or in your garden, a lot of times you will see flies that, at a quick glance look very very similar to a bee. And this is called mimicry, where essentially that that fly is taking some of the benefits of looking like a bee, which you know, would potentially mean other predators leaving it alone thinking there might be some consequences to bothering a bee. So you might see a fly that has more of a striped pattern, similar to a bee. But like Nate mentioned, looking for that single pair of wings is really important. And then, of course, wasps, and hornets are always getting confused with bees. Which, you know, is also easy to easy to, I guess, understand, for those who aren’t entomologists, or who aren’t real familiar with, what these insects are, or what they look like. But definitely be looking for fuzzy hairs on those those legs at the very least, you’re not going to see those on wasps at all.
Nate Bernitz 05:39
Something I’ve spoken about in a previous episode are specifically these ground nesting wasps and bees. If you see a hole in the ground and see frenetic activity around it sometimes, especially if you’re scared of bees or wasps and don’t want to get too close to it and aren’t going to closely examine them, you may just not be able to tell and might assume the worst. That it’s some kind of aggressive wasp like a ground nesting yellow jacket, but a lot of times it’s going to be a docile bee or wasp.
Emma Erler 06:18
Most of these insects, wasps or bees, tend to only be a threat to people if you are doing something to mess with their nest, particularly the communal species. I have spent so much time gardening. Pretty much my entire life, I’ve been stung by a whole plethora of bees and wasps, and even some of the, you know, docile species that are like bumble bees, for example, which can sting. The only way I’ve ever been bothered by them is if I’ve messed around with their nest. So if you see a wasp or hornet nest, you know, a bee, any sort of bee nest, if you can give it a little bit of space, you’re gonna be totally fine. And a lot of them like those bumble bees, the only way that they were bothering me is when I actually took a rake and accidentally raked through their nest. I’m sure if I hadn’t have done that I never would have even known it was there. So there’s, they’re not just flying around looking to sting you. So if there’s a wasp or a bee coming at you, no need to panic.
Nate Bernitz 07:25
Yeah, and I do think it’s helpful, whether you’re raking, whether you’re mowing, not to completely zone out and kind of forget about the fact that like, hey, you should keep your eyes open, because you do not want to run over or rake over a nest of any kind, really. And it’s easy to do if you’re not paying attention, or even if you are it’s possible.
Emma Erler 07:48
Yes, in my case, it could have been a bit of both.
Nate Bernitz 07:50
Emma, you had mentioned the decline of native bees. Do you have any more specifics on what’s going on? And I will just add, anecdotally, we’ve certainly heard from a lot of people this year who are noticing very apparent declines in bees from year to year where they’re just not seeing bees, pollinating their flowering trees and shrubs, their flowers, etc. Whereas in past years, they they might have seen more activity.
Emma Erler 08:19
Well, I think there are probably a few reasons for that, Nate. But the most significant, I think is is habitat loss. We are seeing increased development, pretty much everywhere around the globe. And even in New Hampshire, which is still considered a very rural state, we’re still developing tracks of of more or less virgin land all the time. And every time that happens, we’re potentially losing habitat for bees. So that’s from the human side. So we’re we’re getting rid of areas where there might be flowering plants that bees could use for forage. Another thing, at least in New Hampshire, too, is that this state has grown increasingly more forested over the decades. You know, if you were if you were to be in New Hampshire, gosh, a number of decades ago, there wouldn’t have been as much forest as there is now. Largely from logging or for more farmland that’s that’s no longer maintained so areas have grown up. So that’s something too. There are certainly flowering plants in New Hampshire forests, that bees will pollinate. So you know, some of the spring ephemerals let’s say a lot of the wild flowers that we see in the spring would be pollinated by bees. But for most of the season, there isn’t a whole lot there where we get the most habitat for bees is going to be in open areas, so in meadows, fields, thickets. And overall too, just changing climate can have a big impact on insects too. We are very well aware that Climate change is a is a thing. And it absolutely has an impact on pollinators too. And really, every every single native insect. A lot of these, I should say all of these, native insects are overwintering in some form in New Hampshire. So whether that’s in the egg stage, larval stage, or as an adult. And when they come out of dormancy, or when these insects hatch out, is really going to be determined somewhat by phonology. So there could be some changes there too. And then another topic of conversation always as well is pesticide use in the landscape, particularly insecticide use. We don’t have a lot of large farm operations in New Hampshire. And in general, farmers are trying to use insecticides as responsibly as they can. But homeowners can apply can purchase and apply just about anything that they want. So for those that are trying to maintain that, that perfect lawn and garden that doesn’t have really any sort of insect damage or weed pressure whatsoever, there are some impacts there. And I have to say, I think one of the things that concerns me the most in terms of pollinators bees, in particular, are the tick and mosquito sprays that a lot of people are using around their properties. These are insecticides, and they’re, they’re very, very toxic to any sort of insect that comes in contact with them. Not just the mosquito that you might be trying to target.
Nate Bernitz 11:40
Yeah, so there are a lot of threats. Something else that comes to mind, for me, are invasive plants, which are displacing many of our native plants. Not that invasive plants can’t have value to pollinators. Certainly something like Japanese knotweed seems to really attract bees when it’s in bloom. But the loss of biodiversity in our plant communities has an impact that, ecologically, these native bees have grown to depend on a diverse community of plants that are blooming from early spring to late fall. And when invasive plants along with development and and other threats to plant communities reduces that diversity, that can cause problems. And I think that relates to climate change, too, because if bees or other insects have evolved to have a more specific relationship with certain plants, and those plants maybe bloom at a different time than historically they have because of a warmer winter, or whatever or warmer soil, whatever the cause may be, that could potentially disrupt the insects that have co evolved with those plants.
Emma E 12:58
Absolutely. And I think something I heard in there, Nate, when you were talking about the diversity of plants, something that we don’t always think about is how certain plants are going to be really attractive to a certain type of bee, but you’re not necessarily going to see every single pollinator that you possibly could on each type of plant that’s in the environment or in your garden, let’s say. So having that whole variety is really important because you’re not likely to attract every single pollinator if you just have a handful of species versus the dozens that might have been in an environment historically.
Nate Bernitz 13:38
Yeah, and we’ve kept referring to bees and pollinators and we should acknowledge that bees are just one of the many pollinators that we have in our landscapes. Just to name a few, we already talked about wasps, we already talked about flies, both of which can be pollinators. Certainly butterflies and moths can be very important pollinators often are, hummingbirds. And I’m not sure Emma if there are other birds that can act as pollinators.
Emma Erler 14:11
There are although probably not in our climate, so we’re really talking about Ruby throated Hummingbird in New Hampshire.
Nate Bernitz 14:19
And what am I missing there?
Emma Erler 14:22
Well, around here, we could potentially have beetles doing some pollination too.
Nate Bernitz 14:26
Emma Erler 14:28
Yeah, actually some some really interesting flower beetles, which is a whole group of beetles that you often see on flowers, which is kind of cool. And if we were in a different climate, again, we might see bat pollination. So not something you’re likely to see in New Hampshire, but certainly some some of the cacti out west are exclusively pollinated by bats, which is really cool.
Nate Bernitz 14:54
Yeah, and even kind of going back to some of these moths. For example, a lot of pollination occurs at night.
Emma Erler 15:02
Yes, this is true. Some people who are listening out there might have grown before, a night flowering garden. A lot of times, that’s a lot of white plants that tend to attract night flying insects, because that that white resonates well after dark. One of my favorites kind of for a night blooming plant is moonflower, which is a plant in the morning glory family. And its flowers are really open from dusk until dawn, essentially, I don’t see it the blooms open for very long once the sun’s up, and the day starts to heat up.
Nate Bernitz 15:43
Yeah, and I know I said a lot of pollination probably not a lot, at least around here. But some, I guess the majority of pollination is occurring during the day, which informs people’s activities, say like, if you were going to use some sort of pesticide product, generally, right, you’re not applying that in the middle of the day when pollinating bees are at their most active and we’ll talk about that more later. But there’s no perfect way to apply a pesticide because there are some pollinators that are going to be active at maybe any time of day. You know what, but we can we can probably speak in generalities about what the majority, say, of bees are doing. I was thinking before we actually jump into landscaping and sort of other practices that we can do at our homes and in our yards to support bees, that we could actually talk a little bit about honeybees. So many people, an increasing number of people actually are raising honeybees, whether you just have one hive, or an enthusiast that has many hives, it’s increasingly a popular activity. Not to mention, of course, honey bees roll agriculturally where they are, essentially livestock that have a very specific job, which is to pollinate agricultural crops. And they may even be brought around I’ve certainly heard of and I think this is big business in maybe parts of the country where agricultural operations are much bigger, where farmers will rent bees that might travel across state lines, you know by the by the millions to be released to say pollinate, you know, your almonds crop or something like that, if you’re in California. So what are your thoughts on the role of honeybees?
Emma Erler 17:39
Well, I think and the way agriculture has really, I guess, been designed in this country, the honeybee does have a really important role. where there isn’t, let’s say, a lot of habitat for native bees to do the work. So many, you know, many, many years ago, let’s say, you know, a few 100 years ago, before honey bees were brought over, native bees would have been doing all the work. And you know, even after that before honey beekeeping, you know, really took off native bees were doing most of the pollination work. These days when you have just the acres and acres, let’s say, of a single crop, and not a lot of natural habitat around, and certainly not other forage for those insects. So let’s say apples, apples are great forage habitat for bees, but only when they’re in bloom. So once those plants have stopped flowering if there isn’t a whole bunch of other great habitat nearby, so let’s say wildflower meadows and fields with all sorts of wild flowers, and you’re not going to have a real vibrant native bee population to do the work of pollinating that crop. So it’s it’s become essential more or less to bring honeybees in. But for in smaller operations, let’s say a smaller rural farm in New Hampshire, backyard growers, for a lot of these situations we’re still really dependent on native bees. And we’re not getting all of our pollination needs from honey bees. So honey bees, we’ve come to rely on them quite a bit, you know, overall in the food system, but they’re not the only ones out there. And certainly trying to keep your own honey bees is not a solution for saving the bees. Honey Bees have some serious issues, terms of disease and parasites that are affecting them and making it really difficult for beekeepers to keep them. But if you’re just interested in saving bees in general, you’re much better off, I think, focusing on the dozens if not hundreds or 1000s of other native bee species that live in New Hampshire and you know, honestly, across the entire world.
Nate Bernitz 20:09
And I’m certainly completely out of my depth here, but just doing some research, my understanding is that for folks that maybe aren’t controlling pests and diseases in their honeybee hives that potentially can cause spillover problems with maybe wild Bumblebee populations, or other types of wild bee species. There’s a lot of detail that could be the topic of a dissertation, and I’m sure is the topic of continuing research. But there’s at least some literature out there that suggests that some spillover is possible, which is concerning.
Emma Erler 20:50
Oh, it’s absolutely concerning. Yeah, I think the takeaway message is that if you’re interested in honeybees, you have to be thinking about them, like you said, Nate as livestock where you are raising these insects, essentially, to produce an agricultural product that honey, or, you know, perhaps you’re really relying on them for pollination, because you’re not getting enough pollination from native insects. But, you’re not you’re certainly not saving bees or saving, you know, declining bee populations by keeping honeybees and you may, there may actually be some harm there as well.
Nate Bernitz 21:30
Right. Well, why don’t we get into a topic that I know you’re much more comfortable with, which is the landscaping piece of supporting bees. And there are so many different parts of our landscape we can talk about, and I hope we can kind of touch on them all. For me, you know, certainly the most obvious is going to be your flower gardens, that we can transform into being as pollinator friendly as possible. And certainly, there are ways of flower gardening that aren’t going to be so beneficial to bees. So there’s always an opportunity to do that better. But, then there may be parts of our yards that we don’t think of as much when it comes to supporting bees, but can be really important. Like flowering trees and shrubs can can just be be magnets, we can talk about lawns, potentially, and how you may be able to make your lawn a little or a lot more bee friendly, we can talk I think about our vegetable gardens, our fruit trees and, and how we can at the very least minimize negative impacts and maybe even support bees actively a little bit in those spaces. I thought we could probably at least touch on the possibility of doing larger scale projects like a wildflower meadow. And there are other parts of the yard to where we can create habitat that isn’t necessarily somewhere where you’re growing plants, but maybe somewhere that you’re not. So, a lot to talk about. And I know we’ve already done an episode on flower gardening, but we really didn’t focus in that episode on supporting bees. So what are your thoughts, generally speaking, on what, what approaches you can take to make your flower garden as supportive to bees as possible?
Emma Erler 23:19
Boy, I’m so glad you asked that question Nate. To start, if you are really looking to support native pollinators, the best thing you can do is grow native plants. We, for a couple of reasons, right? One, those insects would have co evolved with those plants. So we know that they should be good sources of pollen and nectar to start with. Number two, native plants if you’re putting them in a growing environment that they’re adapted to, say you’re choosing something that grows well in full sun and rocky soil and you’re putting it in a full sun well drained location in your garden, it shouldn’t have any trouble surviving whatsoever, and should be more drought tolerant shouldn’t require a whole bunch of fertilization or winter protection. So you just have a happier garden from the get go with plants that you don’t really have to fuss over. Beyond that, it’s gonna be important too, to plant a wide variety of species. So a whole bunch of of different types of flowers of trees of shrubs of vines, so that you’re getting a diversity of blooms, which are hopefully going to serve a variety of different species. And you’re going to have forage across the entire season, which is really, really important for helping bee populations overall. So that means having plants that bloom in early spring, right up through the fall. Now, when you go to plan your garden, in no way do I advocate for just planting native plants. I know I just stress that they’re really important but you can still have a really bee friendly garden that has some other species, other plant species in it. So you can have some introduced things. And these are going to provide still potentially provide some some good nectar and pollen. One reason that they are often cut out of the equation when we’re talking about pollinator gardens in general, is that the native or the non native species, so things that are introduced from Europe or Asia, let’s say, don’t tend to be very good larval host plants for insects, like butterflies and moths, which is not the focus of our talk today, but when, oftentimes, when we’re talking about helping the bees saving the bees, we’re talking about broader, you know, pollinator populations in general. So if you are also a fan of, let’s say, swallowtail butterflies in your landscape, you’re going to need to have some, some host plants for those caterpillars as well. So getting a little off target here, but yeah, so what’s the takeaway, make sure that you have a diversity of blooms, and you’re going to have things that are flowering across the entire season, and does not have to be just herbaceous plants. So the perennials and annuals that should include your trees and shrubs as well
Nate Bernitz 26:22
Well, and just on this topic of flowers. When I’m at the garden center, and I know we’ve done an episode kind of in that setting as well, looking at some of the flowers, It’s not always so obvious, number one, whether something is native. And then number two, whether there’s potentially some implication of a flower being a cultivar. So what are your thoughts on just how to figure out whether something’s native how to figure out whether it has a lot of value for pollinators or not? And And what about this whole cultivar issue?
Emma Erler 26:55
figuring out whether something’s native. well, what I can say is that a lot of garden centers are starting to put together a section that’s just for native plants to make shopping a bit easier for folks. What you’re probably going to have to do though, is a little bit of research on the side, you know, either on the spot, looking on your phone to look up a particular species or ahead of time, you also really need to define, too, what you consider invasive to mean. For some people that means or sorry, what you mean native to mean, for some people, that means just plants that grow in New Hampshire. For others, it might mean things that grow in the wild in New England. And for some, it might mean anything that grows in the wild in North America. If you’re just trying to grow things native to New Hampshire, New England, that leaves you with a pretty small plant palette to choose from, you know, there, there aren’t going to be a ton of different cultivated plants that you’re going to be able to find easily to put into your garden. But there’s there’s going to be plenty, you may just not have the most exotic looking garden, which as gardeners, as horticulturalists, we often want something that is a little bit unusual. So in that case, you might want to broaden your definition of native to include things that are native to North America in general. And I think most people probably fall into this camp because one of the favorite pollinator plants, it’s a great one for bees is purple coneflower, echinacea. This is not a plant that you’d find in New Hampshire or really New England in general, it’s a prairie species that you would find more in the Midwest. So you’re not going to find that around here. But it grows great in our climate, it’s really good for bees, so I don’t have any issue with planting it in the landscape. Kind of a bigger discussion then within the topic of native plants is whether cultivars or cultivated varieties of native species are acceptable for the landscape for bees and other pollinators. And, you know, the jury’s still kind of out on this. Some of these plants seem to attract pollinators, just as well as as the straight species. In other cases, you may not see as many bees on a plant that is a cultivated variety. So a lot of times what we see in a plant that’s a cultivar, or if you want to use the term nativar, which basically means native cultivars, you’ll see different flower colors, potentially some different flower shapes, or you’ll have an abnormal number of flower parts, let’s say double or triple the number of petals that a flower might normally have. And sometimes different colored foliage as well. For bees, the flowers are probably what’s the most important and when I’m shopping what I really look to avoid are plants that have double, triple quadruple the number of petals that they would normally have. Because when that’s the case, a lot of times those petals have kind of taken the place of the actual valuable reproductive parts of that flower. So there’s not going to be nearly as much pollen, or nectar. And that plants not going to be as attractive. They’re definitely to use the same plant again, purple coneflower cultivars that have been bred this way so that they have tons and tons of petals, not too many viable reproductive parts. So not producing pollen not producing nectar. And these just aren’t going to be that useful for bees. So you’re much better off growing something that’s closer to the original to the straight native.
Nate Bernitz 30:54
Emma, do you have any favorite, especially bee friendly, pollinator flowers that you want to recommend maybe besides echinacea, and I will note we have a nice fact sheet that we’ll link to in the show notes that give some of our recommendations in a very nice chart form that aligns with bloom periods. So you can make sure that you’re covering all your bases, but what are a few favorites you have?
Emma Erler 31:21
I really like sneezeweed a lot, helenium, it’s a really nice native flower, it’s and it’s in that Aster Daisy family, so it has that a flower that if you’re if you’re not a botanist, you might say oh, that just you know looks kind of like a daisy, really, really great bee forage. And it tends to like a little bit of a wetter or a richer soil. So if you have that sort of soil perfect, or even if you have an area, let’s say closer to a pond or something like that where you have a little bit of a damper richer soil. That’s a plant that’s going to do really well and you’re going to see a lot of bee activity on it. I also think that Joe Pye weed is one of the best possible plants that you can have in your garden for bees, and really all the other pollinators as well. blooms later in the summer, so you’re extending your season with this plant. And it has really dramatic foliage and pink plumes of flowers. And you’ll definitely be rewarded with with all sorts of bee activity on that plant as well. And then there’s a special place in my heart too for goldenrod, which is another later summer fall blooming plant. There are a lot of species, some of which are more appropriate for garden settings than others. But golden rod is great for bees, you’ll often see lots and lots of bee activity on golden rod. And so you might be cultivating it in your landscape if you’re not if there’s some nearby in the meadow or a field. Appreciate it for the great forage habitat that it’s adding to the landscape.
Nate Bernitz 33:09
And you had mentioned flowering trees and shrubs. What are some features that you’re looking for for those that are going to make them especially valuable to bees and other pollinators? And maybe some features or characteristics you might avoid if that’s your top concern? And I’m sure you have your favorites here too.
Emma Erler 33:29
Well usually with trees and shrubs, we’re looking at pollen and nectar production on these plants in terms of popularity among bees and bee use. A tree that, certainly beekeepers love, but also it’s a native bees will use it as well is basswood or linden is the other name for it. the native species which is tilia Americana, American basswood, really is just a bee magnet. And it’s it’s blooming this time of year and some areas might actually already be wrapping up but the flowers are really rich in nectar. And if you are underneath a basswood, a good way to know is just by the the buzzing or humming sound that you’ll hear beneath it. And that tree is also potentially going to be good nesting habitat for birds too, so you might get a hummingbird, let’s say nesting in a basswood tree. So really useful there. And, you know with most of most of the flowering trees and shrubs, you’re gonna get blooms early in the season, typically spring early summer, but you could also try to extend flowering season with these plants as well. Another good one for bees is buttonbush which is a native wetland plant that has these really interesting white globular flowers that’s really midsummer. Or you could grow summer sweet or sweet pepper bush Clethra alnifolia, which is another little bit later summer bloomer, that attracts bees and butterflies both.
Nate Bernitz 35:10
And when we’re talking about trees and shrubs, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that there’s this whole sort of field of agroforestry. And a lot of interesting techniques, especially if you have a larger property. You know, one thing I’ve read a little bit about, I’m not sure if you are able to speak to this or not Emma, is that incorporating windbreaks you know, kind of hedge rows and different things to provide a calmer place for for bees to fly where the wind isn’t hitting them so hard. That can be an interesting thing to incorporate. If you happen to live on shoreline, you know, thinking about that buffer zone, and providing value to bees and other pollinators in in that riparian area. And then on really large properties, thinking about even like alley cropping with some of these really valuable plants or really valuable trees rather, I mean, there’s, there’s, there’s a lot to talk about with agroforestry. But when if you’re on a larger property, in addition to what we’ll talk about later, which is these larger scale meadows, there are other other projects you can do as well.
Emma Erler 36:28
Totally, yeah, I, I second, everything you just said,
Nate Bernitz 36:32
Okay, we’ll leave it at that, because I don’t think either of us are too prepared to talk about that. But maybe we may have a guest on at some point that can that can expand on that, something I do know that you’re prepared to talk about, because it’s a passion area for you are lawns. I think, I mean, I say that only half kidding, but on on one side of the spectrum, there is the perfect green grass lawn, which we know is a high input piece of land, grass is not going to look that good without some interventions. And those interventions could include the use of pesticides, the use of herbicides for controlling weeds, it certainly requires a lot of water, which is not necessarily connected directly to bees. But it’s certainly a sustainability issue. And it’s also I think there’s an opportunity cost, right? When you maintain a very large area of lawn, it brings up the question of, hey, what else could I be doing with this land? Does it need to be lawn? Or rather, does the entire piece of land need to be lawn? Or might you experiment with some other land uses, and at least some of those areas that maybe you’re just not actually using as a high traffic area? Or one of the many reasons why having some some lawn is actually very helpful. So what are your thoughts kind of on that side of the spectrum on areas that are lawn and you want to keep as lawn but you also want to reduce maybe any potential negative impacts from that area on bees.
Emma Erler 38:13
So one thing I guess I’m thinking about with with lawns is that there’s your very traditional lawn care program or approach, like you mentioned, where you’re, you’re putting down a bunch of, let’s say herbicides, potentially, to be killing off weeds. Or maybe even some insecticides too. If you’re really concerned about grubs or chinch bugs or some other pest insect in the lawn. It is definitely possible to have a really good looking healthy lawn without using herbicides or insecticides. The trick is that it tends to be, it can be a bit more expensive, and or more labor intensive. So instead of using that herbicide, you can be out hand weeding instead, instead of using a bunch of, let’s say, insecticides, there might be a biological control instead. So like one thing for grubs that’s getting some attention is the use of parasitic nematodes, which are little round worms that you’d put in the soil. That’s a little bit tricky. And you definitely more expensive and may not always be effective, because that’s very dependent on the conditions of the soil. If there’s enough water, if it’s right temperature if they’ve been stored properly. There are alternative options, I guess, is what I’m trying to say to some of the, let’s say really, really toxic pesticides that are that are used, say for grub control that can have an impact on pollinators as well if they’re exposed. You know, if you are willing to relax your standards a little bit on what the perfect lawn looks like. allowing some weeds to grow in the lawn is great. You know, I know a lot of people tout dandelions as being really excellent for for bees, that I’m kind of hit or miss on that for lawn areas just because dandelions can take over so quickly and really be an aesthetic issue. But I do think that a more permanent planting or incorporation of clover can be really excellent for the lawn and this is twofold clover is going to bloom. So it’s going to provide good foraging habitat for bees, that nectar and possibly some pollen, and then clover as well as is going to fix its own nitrogen. So that plant actually has nodules on its roots. So it can take nitrogen from the air and turn it into soil nitrogen or nitrogen in a form it can use. And then if you are returning grass clippings to your lawn, so when you mow instead of bagging the clippings, you return those clippings to the to the soil, the nitrogen that was locked up in that clover foliage then gets returned to the lawn. So you’re you’re fertilizing less, hopefully you have a little bit more sustainable lawn in general, and you’re you’re feeding pollinators. Clover is not going to be probably appropriate for every lawn situation, because it’s it’s not the most drought tolerant. Nor does it make a very good standalone lawn, because it grows in patches. So it will expand outwards, you’ll have a lot of bare patches that are going to fill in with weeds. But something I found interesting to learn a number of years ago is that clover was once a normal component of lawns, up until the 1950s, actually, with the introduction of some of the modern herbicides that we now have was clover pushed out. But it used to be part of a perfectly acceptable lawn. And I’d say, adding some in in most cases, unless you have a really dry droughty soil, clover is gonna be a good choice.
Nate Bernitz 42:12
Yeah, and I’d say even farther on that spectrum, like all the way to having that perfect lawn, I still think there are little tweaks that you can make to just be a little bit more supportive to pollinators. And, frankly, we speak to people all the time who are really just not willing to budge on their standards. So at that point, it is about making those small tweaks. So I’d say one thing is if you’re going to put down a traditional grub control product, make sure you’re keeping those flowering weeds mowed down, because there are concerns about if you’re using a systemic product, which is, which is what the majority of people I think are using these days for grub control those those ones they are putting down in the spring. there there’s there are some concerns, and the the jury is still I think out to some extent on this issue. But on on what might happen. Wouldn’t bees visit those flowering weeds, so keeping those mowed down over the summer, while that grub control product is doing its work is is a good safe option for you. And I’d also say, really trying to avoid those contact insecticides that you might use over the summer in the fall to deal with grubs, because those do have a harsher environmental impact. And some of the newer preventative grub control products are less harmful to bees and other pollinators. And so the the science and innovation is heading in the right direction on this stuff, which is great. And on the weed killer topic. You know, a lot of times you’ll have a lot of success controlling many of these broadleaf weeds in the fall well after they’re done flowering in many cases. So I think that it’s worth considering, even though a lot of people are thinking about weed control in the spring and summer, I think it’s worth actually many times waiting to apply until the fall, when you’re gonna maybe have more success and less impact at the same time. What are your thoughts on those ideas?
Emma Erler 44:15
I think you’re spot on with the grub control with the weed control, it’s gonna be important to identify which we actually have. So if you were really battling annual weeds, so weeds that complete their whole lifecycle from seed to flower to seed and a single growing season. Those are really going to need to be treated in the spring. But if you’re dealing with a perennial weed issue, so like dandelions, or ground Ivy or Veronica speedwell, those can be treated in the fall. So you’re absolutely right about that Nate and a lot of times herbicides do tend to be more effective later in the season. So late summer, early fall, or even in some cases after the first frost On on perennial species,
Nate Bernitz 45:02
yeah, and and with clover, by the way, Clover is one of those broadleaf weeds. So if you’re introducing clover intentionally to your lawn, and then using broadleaf weed killers, I don’t think you’re going to be so happy with the result there. But early fall is a great time to maybe head to your your local garden center, or farm supply store, pick up some white clover and, and consider overseeding your lawn maybe in some of those sparser patches and incorporating some of that clover, I think that’s gonna, that’s going to perform really nicely and, and that could be just step one for you, and sort of moving in that transformational direction or that could be your, your, your endpoint, it really just depends on on what you’re looking to do. Now, there’s also really just alternatives to lawns, right? You still want something low growing, maybe something that you keep mowed down, or something that just naturally stays low growing that can perform nicely, instead of a lawn, what do you do have any recommendations for those lawn alternatives like rather than turning it into a garden, you still want something that essentially performs the same purpose. For parts of your yard where you’re not doing a whole lot of walking around, your pets aren’t going out there much. It’s, it’s kind of just an area that is is there, and you kind of want to look nice, but don’t need it to be grass.
Emma E 46:34
There definitely are some lawn alternatives out there. I think the key there is really what the what the plan to use in that area is going to be like you mentioned, Nate, if this is a spot where nobody’s going to be walking around. If kids aren’t going to be playing pets aren’t going to be exercising, then you have a few more options. But if you’re expecting it to still stand up to abuse to yard games, or whatever else like a traditional lawn, you’re really going to be better off sticking with turf grasses. But you know, if you fall into, you know that camp of having an area that you would just like to let go a little bit. There are definitely some ground covers, which will tolerate you know, a little bit of light foot traffic. If you have a shady or area. One plant that I often think is worth consideration is ajuga, also known as bugle weed our carpet bugle. It’s not native,
Nate Bernitz 47:31
by the way, that’s probably something that’s growing in many of your lawns already.
Emma Erler 47:36
It’s possible. So bugle weeds, it’s sold as a ground cover for shadier areas in the landscape. And a lot of times it escapes, because it does such a good job of spreading as a ground cover, it might migrate out of a perennial bed, or somebody might have planted it there decades ago. And that original planting shifted into the lawn area. So you might not even recognize it as something that might have been planted purposefully at one point that the green leaf close closer to the straight species is definitely more old fashioned. There are a lot of more modern varieties that have you know, really pretty modeled foliage or Burgundy’s or pinks. And these do flower as well. So these really pretty spikes of purple flowers that bees will definitely visit. So that’s what I mentioned, just because it is tough, and you can walk across it. Not a lot, but a little for sunnier areas, what gets used a lot in lawns, and sometimes between pavers, or alongside stepping stones and garden settings is creeping time. Time. You know, it’s it’s a culinary herb, so it’s also very fragrant, which some people like when they’re walking through and it does bloom as well. So you’ve got another potential plant in the landscape for bees to come and visit. The only thing about that is that it it does require a well drained soil, it requires full sun, and it can be slow to establish. So unlike the the lawn grasses or the or the clover, that you can just drop seed for implant. If you’re going to go with that ajuga that I just mentioned or the time, you’re not likely going to have very good success. If you just scatter seeds across bare soil, you’re really going to need to start with small plants in the landscape. So it’s it’s more expensive to start. So this is probably not something you’re going to do on a large scale right off the bat. But you might do a small little area of your lawn to start with kind of going this way.
Nate Bernitz 49:47
There’s an old saying about football. It’s a game of inches, and I think maybe you could say the same here. Oh, absolutely. Yes. And of course, there are many true alters additives to a lawn, you can convert parts of the lawn to gardens of course, and and we’ll talk again, I keep teasing, this will talk about Meadow conversions too. But for gardens, the vegetable garden I think is actually important to spend a minute on. Because that’s an area where people may be using pesticides potentially to try and control pests. At the same time, we rely on bees and other pollinators to pollinate some of our veggies. So there’s potential conflicts that can occur in the vegetable garden. And then, of course, many people do companion planting, with certain flowers that are attracting bees. And those flowers maybe are really beneficial for bees, or, you know, maybe some are bringing as much to the table. So there’s some different issues to kind of tease out, I think in the garden did what are your basic tips there?
Emma E 51:00
Well, in terms of insect pest management in the veggie garden, unless you have a massive garden, and not enough time on your hands, a lot of the pest insects can be hand picked, which basically means just going out, collecting them by hand, and either squishing them, which not my preference, or quickly doing away with them by putting them in some soapy water. If you keep up with that, you know, ideally, if you’re doing it every single day, maybe if not that, you know every other day, usually, pest populations, and this is this is with a lot of beetles are they’re not going to get out of hand, you know, there might still be a little bit of feeding, but recognizing that a little bit of feeding damage to the plants in your garden is okay. It’s gonna be a good thing. And it’s definitely gonna be important for for bees.
Nate Bernitz 51:53
Yeah, I was just talking to a gardener this morning, who had seen a few holes on the leaves of his pepper plants and had already responded with a broad spectrum insecticidal dust. And, you know, I looked at it and you know, and when we talked about it, I basically said, You’re not growing peppers for the leaves. And the the, the the damage is, is pretty minor here. Right? You may, it may even be acceptable, especially if you don’t see it getting worse. I think that that made sense. And I think we just sometimes respond to any kind of damage by assuming that it’s going to turn into a tidal wave. And we’re going to come out the next day and our plants are going to be gone. And all our hard work is going to be ruined. And you know, oftentimes, work were put in place plants in the garden and just like the flowers and weeds and everything naturally in the landscape, insects are gonna munch on them a bit. So, I mean, we covered this really well in the last episode with with Anna, but I think it’s worth repeating. That really pesticide should be used as a last resort, especially in the vegetable garden, because like you said, How big is your garden? Is it really something where you where you can’t take a little bit of time to go around and do some hand picking some monitoring? I know there are a few pests that may be an exception. But by and large, you know, there’s there’s a lot most of the insects, it really shouldn’t even be something worth considering.
Emma Erler 53:25
Right. Yeah, I mean, I think for the majority of home gardens, handpicking is going to be ideal. And for those who might be a little squeamish about insects, I think that that’s part of your journey as a gardener getting more comfortable being around insects, even even handling insects, even if that means with gloves. Yeah, because it’s definitely if you were if you were trying to be a good steward for the bees. That’s probably the number one approach for pest management in your vegetable garden.
Nate Bernitz 53:56
I do think it gets more complicated when you’re growing something like a fruit tree, especially if you’re on a spray program. Not to say that you can’t follow a spray program and be supportive of bees at the same time because you you absolutely can. They’re not mutually exclusive at all. But there’s also I simply put even people that grow a few fruit trees if you have high expectations about those fruits, unlike in the vegetable garden handpicking is often not going to have the same utility and and we’re typically relying more on sprays in those settings and UNH extension and other extensions provide very thoughtful science based schedules to guide gardeners but certainly if you maybe have your fruit trees too close to your flower garden or or something else. There could be drift issues and if you’re not following that schedule, or you’re maybe using one of those Multi Purpose products with a long residual doing that For bloom, but maybe too close to bloom, you know, there there, there could be any, you know, big issue there potentially. So, I think I think that’s just an area where we need to be a little bit more thoughtful.
Emma E 55:12
Absolutely, no, you’re spot on with that neat ad. There are definitely some insects of fruits and veggies to, but harder to manage and fruit trees that are devastating for the crop, potentially, if populations are high, so spraying is often appropriate. But using one of these spray schedules that you just mentioned, is so important so that you’re putting insecticide on only when it’s needed.
Nate Bernitz 55:41
You know, when it comes to using pesticides, I, I really think we should actually talk specifically about how to limit impacts on pollinators when using pesticides, because I mean, one aspect is product choice, if you understand how to read a label, you can look at those labels. And they’re gonna have explicit information on there about the risk to to bees, and and, and other insects and wildlife and the environment. And so you can simply look at that information. And that may help you make an educated decision on product choice. But like we talked about, kind of at the beginning of the episode, time of day, that you’re spraying I, I really like to encourage people to pay attention to how windy it is. Because if you’re spraying and there’s a decent wind, you know, who knows where that that might drift to so picking really calm days spraying in the early morning, or maybe even better in the evening is is going to be a good choice. And just generally like staying away from flat from flowering plants. When you’re spraying it, you really, I mean, in my mind, there are very few if any exceptions to the rule that you know, gardeners just shouldn’t be spraying flowering plants. And I know that in certain settings, maybe you’re growing roses, and you’re you’re managing pests in that setting. I know that people use, you know, systemic products to battle to battle paths, while roses are blooming, for example, and you can think of other examples, I’m sure but by and large and certainly in my garden, you know, that’s a rule I stick to.
Emma E 57:18
I know there’s a botanist out there somewhere who’s cringing when they listen to us talking about flowering plants versus non flowering plants in the landscape. The key there is plants that are insect pollinated. You don’t want to be spraying anything around plants that are insect pollinated. So things like grasses, they these plants still have flowers, right. But they’re wind pollinated. So there’s less of a point to pollinators. If you’re treating just a grass area versus an area that’s filled up with with asters or golden rod or coneflower or something like that.
Nate Bernitz 57:55
Yeah, that nuance is important. Thank you. Do you do have any other thoughts on on how we can limit those impacts? If and when we need to use a product?
Emma Erler 58:05
Absolutely. For a lot of paths, it gets a little bit trickier with the home garden situation. But there’s there’s often a whole list of potential insecticides are going to work against a particular pest insect. And if we’re really committed to helping out bees, we’re going to do our homework and we’re going to choose the least toxic option that that’s still going to be effective. So that often does require a little bit of work, because you might find a university fact sheet that lists I don’t know 567 different possible insecticides that will work. But doing a little bit more homework. As Nate said, looking at those product labels looking for for warnings about trading near pollinators is going to be key. In general, the insecticides that tend to be a little bit friendlier, the ones that are contact insecticides, which means the product needs to actually be applied to the pest insect itself. So some of the insecticidal soaps and oils are better options in the systemic products, like you mentioned, Nate, more or anything that is going to put a residue on plant tissue that’s going to poison an insect if it eats that. Probably the exception there is something like bt, Bacillus thuringiensis, which is only going to impact caterpillars. It’s not going to impact really anybody else.
Nate Bernitz 59:40
Yeah, at least. Maybe one other tip I would have is avoiding using pesticides before rain, or even if the forecast predicts heavy due, because many of these products are pose risk and the label will say this to aquatic organisms. So that mix of water In soil and and that product is something to be aware of, especially for products that have a longer residual. So looking at the weather forecast, not only for wind, but but for rain. You know, Emma had already talked about her concerns about sprays for mosquitoes and ticks. I mean definitely if you hire a service do that understanding I think that there are going to be some impacts no matter what but he’s certainly keeping keeping a wide berth from from plants that are in flower and like Emma said, of course that are insect pollinated and, and that and you may have to give pretty specific instructions, not necessarily assuming that the applicator is extremely educated on that topic they may or may not be and one other thought for any beekeepers that are listening. You’re probably saying hey, make sure there aren’t any local beehives or communicate with with neighbors that may have beehives, the for example if you are treating for ticks, mosquitoes and your neighbor next door maintains beehives close to your property yet that could be an issue and and is worth doing serious due diligence on Well, we’ve teased it however I guess I’ve teased it but let’s talk about wildflower meadows. Emma, you’ve you’ve helped consult with me a little bit on on a on a project I’m trying to do I think and then kind of tougher hairy on a severe slow with, with some part sun and full sun components, which is a little challenging. But in general, what is a wildflower meadow, my understanding is part of it is just that it is a piece of land of some sort of minimum size, it’s bigger than a garden setting, and a space that you’re going to treat differently than a pollinator garden. But with potentially huge rewards and ultimately a very low maintenance space. If you do your prep work, and you kind of follow a series of steps to get where you’re going. The rewards can be incredible. And that’s what I’m excited about.
Emma Erler 1:02:10
Totally so I think of wildflower Meadows as being more or less uncultivated spaces, where you are just once established, allowing the native plants that you you grew from from seed or or from starts in that area, do what they’re going to do. So letting them bloom without deadheading not doing a whole lot of mowing or weeding. This is a spot where you’re just trying to let nature run its course, the majority of really successful wildflower Meadows are going to have a mix of of, like I said wild flowers, as well as native grasses too. So you have really what ends up looking like a field which is just chock full of insect pollinated plants. The reason that the grasses are included in there too, I think it’s kind of twofold. One grasses do a better job stabilizing soil than really anything else. Number two grasses can also provide good nesting habitat for some native insects. But yeah, if you have a really functional meadow, it’s going to be providing all sorts of habitat and forage. And all you’re really going to be asked to do is just mow it once a year, or maybe once every other year.
Nate Bernitz 1:03:31
What are the maybe some of the common mistakes or questions that you get most often about Meadow establishment because of course, we can direct people to our resources that are extensive and, and research based on how to establish a wildflower meadow in our region, but kind of going beyond that. What are the hurdles you’re seeing? for people,
Emma Erler 1:03:55
I think one of the biggest problems is not having the patience to totally control weeds. Before sowing seeds, it’s really, really critical to prepare a good seed bed for planting. And that means suppressing as many weed seeds in the soil as possible. think sometimes people are a little anxious, so they want to get their their Meadow going right away. So they might, let’s say cultivate the soil and might tell it a bunch of times. Or they might spray an area with herbicide to knock it down. But if you just do this once, if you just go through and tell one Sir, if you just spray once. Or if you if you’re you know, let’s say smothering weeds, but you do it with a tarp or something you only do it for a short period of time, let’s say a month or so. You probably haven’t done a good enough job of killing the existing weeds that are weed seeds that have come up to the surface and could germinate. So the really expensive wildflower seed that you bought to plant in that area. may not do it. as well, because it’s going to have to compete with a lot of really aggressive weeds. So that that can be a challenge. I think sometimes to the time of year people plant can have an impact on their success. If you are growing a mix that’s really heavy on these, these insect pollinated wild flowers and fewer grasses, it’s going to be ideal to actually so that in the fall, even into early winter, because these broadleaf plants do require the majority of them a cold period, in order for that seed to break dormancy. So the seeds have a built in mechanism that basically prevents them from germinating until they’ve experienced a cold period. So going through a natural winter helps them germinate at a higher rate in the spring. If you are just trying to sow grasses though warm season grasses, which is most of the native grasses we have in New Hampshire. With those, you’re going to be better off sewing in the spring because they tend to germinate better once the soil temperature is warmer. And they they don’t do quite as well with that fall sewing. So figuring out what you got going on. I think for the majority of people, though sowing in the fall is going to be the ideal. And then I think probably the last area where you might run into some trouble is just with your seed selection. You can, there are all sorts of different mixes online from different companies, the ones that tend to be the best, definitely have both a grass and wildflower component, and are heavier in perennial wild flowers. And ideally, this should be a more defined definition of wildflower, I mean, it really should be something that’s native to Eastern North America. And some of the cheaper mixes have just a whole bunch of annual flowers in them instead of the perennial species. So you might have something that looks really great the first season, when you have all these blooms may be kind of Okay, the next season then gradually just kind of becomes a weedy mess, because you don’t have any long term perennial plants there take over. If you want color that first year, I think you’re better off just mixing a few annual seeds in with your your perennial seed mixture.
Nate Bernitz 1:07:19
One other thing that comes to mind is we’ve gotten a few questions from people who are essentially in a tough spot where they have a cleared site, and it needs to be planted, but it’s springtime. And they’re looking for Okay, like I i understand we’re supposed to seed in the fall probably even sort of mid to late fall early winter, like you’re talking about. So how do I bridge that gap? And I think one option potentially can be buckwheat, which is a cover crop with that is in and of itself supportive to bees, and is also a cover crop to consider for maybe a large garden site to that that can be a nice bridge between the spring and the fall for letting an area of rest and providing habitat and forage for bees. What are your thoughts on strategies like that?
Emma Erler 1:08:13
I think that that’s a really good plan. And like you mentioned, the buckwheat is probably one of the better cover crops for pollinators. One other one you might look at is some of the clovers. So not the white clover because that one is perennial and will come back year after year and might be challenging to get rid of if you don’t want it in an area but some of the others like crimson clover, could be a good option for just covering over the soil before you get a chance to plant. The only thing to consider if you’re using a cover crop is that you might need to terminate it meaning knock it down in some way whether that means mowing or whether that means the use of an herbicide or tilling in order to have a clean seed bed to put your wildflower seed down.
Nate Bernitz 1:09:03
Yeah and the the termination method is going to depend on the particular cover crop you’re using. So the end that’s worth considering when you choose your cover crop is understanding when and how you’re going to terminate it and making sure you’re comfortable and able to execute kind of that termination strategy because some some cover crops are designed for farmers with heavy equipment and you know are really going to be appropriate for for a garden setting where you’re unless you have that heavy equipment which you may you know, many property owners do have the equipment that you would need but just worth considering, you know, I had mentioned kind of other parts of the yard maybe places that we’re not cultivating that don’t have a specific use like a meadow. Those areas are worth considering to some of the features that you may have in your new hampshire landscape might be like a rock wall that could potentially provide good habitat. Certainly just parts of your yard where leaves fall under trees and they’re more naturalized settings. Those can be really important for bees and other pollinators, potentially, oh, you know, providing water sources and just providing bare dirt By the way, where there there aren’t plants growing a lot of times for many of us, there’s going to be bare dirt and parts of our yards, whether we like it or not. But if that’s not the case, if you just have every inch of your property manicured, you may not be providing the habitat you might want to for for certain ground nesting bees, what What tips do you have? And how can you kind of build on that surface level explanation Emma
Emma Erler 1:10:42
totally well, having some of this more naturalized area where you’re just leaving the leaves where you’re you’re not having things quite as cultivated a lot of times so it’s really important overwintering habitat for pollinators for bees, as well as a whole other suite of native insects. So that’s key. Something else I think that’s important that might make a lot of people kind of uncomfortable, is leaving some dead brush around the property or a dead tree. These are gonna potentially, you know, this, these dead wood is possible nesting habitat for some species of ground nesting bees are not ground nesting sorry, if some species of native bees, that’s also potentially good habitat for birds too, and other wildlife. So leaving that snag tree on the property is going to be a good thing too. And if you decide that you want to have a bee house, which a lot of people do either they enjoy making their own with kind of their their Pinterest DIY project or purchasing one, make sure you do your homework to the point that you know that the size holes, let’s say in the B house, the size canes that have been included are the right diameter for bees to use them because they are picky. different species will use different diameter a holes if it’s a drilled hole on a board or something, or canes and make sure that those those holes, those canes are deep enough for some of these insects, they want a really long, drilled hole so you know six or more inches deep, otherwise they won’t use it. So before you spend a bunch of time on this project, or you buy something that’s kind of expensive, make sure you know that you’ve gotten one that’s actually going to help out the pollinators.
Nate Bernitz 1:12:37
Well, we’ll dig up some some written instructions that I’m sure there’s a link either on our website or somewhere else that that gives instructions for how to create your own or at least or what to look for when buying a B house or B hotel, whatever you want to call it. Okay, so here’s my closing question for you, Emma. Oh, we’ve been going a while we’re pretty much out of time here. So leaving the leaves, let’s let’s get into that a little bit more, how long should you leave the leaves and why
Emma Erler 1:13:10
in a perfect world, you would always leave the leaves. So you’re not going to be scooping those up and carrying a toy at any point just because insects are going to be coming out of dormancy at different times. And it’s really hard for us to guess you know who’s in there, and who we’re going to be removing or disturbing when we take the leaves out of our garden. I think that’s why something like a meadow can be so helpful because you really aren’t manipulating that area that much. But if you are looking for, you know, a really manicured garden, let’s say and you’ve been leaving most leaves, I would wait to do it until you’re really starting to see a lot of new growth on plants in your garden. So waiting as long as possible. I’ve seen different temperature recommendations out there. In terms of you know what, what the outside temperature should be before you do it. I the way I prescribe to it is just wait as long as possible. You know, I might not get to doing that until well into May. Let’s say before I’m I’m trying to scoop up leaves. And even then I think some of this is just changing our expectations for what the landscape should look like or what’s acceptable for a tidy garden. A lot of times fallen leaves, or even debris just from the garden makes a great mulch, and you’re going to have fewer weed issues. If you just leave that stuff alone rather than stirring it up and bringing in a new, let’s say bark or wood mulch. So if you can, if you can tolerate just perhaps a little bit of messiness in the spring because it’s always in the spring that things look the worst in the car. Once, if your plants are grown densely enough in your garden, once they put on new growth, you’re not even going to notice a lot of that debris.
Nate Bernitz 1:15:09
Okay, and I’m gonna kind of close this out here with that next step what what people can do because you’re, we’ve given some tips and kind of walk through some different topics. But a lot of times to really make actionable steps, it may help to have some kind of rubric. So there are organizations that have created pollinator garden certifications. And then these vary, there are some that just provide some general guidelines. And it’s more of a voluntary sort of statement of intent, right to say, I’m certifying my garden, and you know, that means that I’m doing these things, but there may not be a whole lot of due diligence. And then there are other certification programs that are much more in depth. And that’s actually something that we’re working on a UNH extension, with our partners at University of Maine Cooperative Extension is, is partnering on developing a certification program for gardeners in New Hampshire. they’ve they’ve created a fantastic program, and we’re we’re working on making that available to New Hampshire gardeners as well. And, and I’d say right, I’d recommend taking a look at their website, which goes through things in a very methodical systematic way to really do your due diligence on vetting your garden in your property at large to see how you can better support bees and other pollinators because take home message even folks on small properties. There’s a tremendous amount we can all do to support bees and other pollinators irregardless of what’s going on around us. There, there’s really no property too small to make a big difference.
Emma Erler 1:17:11
This episode’s featured plant is cosmos, Cosmos bipa natus Cosmos are a very common garden annual and for good reason. They’re easy to grow and average well drained soil in full sun and bloom from June up until frost if the spent flowers are deadheaded Kosmos are a member of the daisy family, as evidenced by their saucer shaped Daisy like flowers. And although native to Mexico, Cosmos thrive in New Hampshire summers in can either be directly sown outdoors just before the last spring frost date, or started indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost date. The things I like about Cosmos are their delicate threadlike leaves and range of flower colors including white, pink, red and by color. Plans also range in height from Dorf the tall so they can be used in a variety of garden settings. Best of all Kosmos are visited by many bee species, including green metallic sweat bees, and long horn bees.
Nate Bernitz 1:18:21
That’s all for today’s show on supporting bees and other pollinators in our yards and gardens. But don’t let that put an end to the conversation. Email us at GSG dot firstname.lastname@example.org with your lingering questions that you’d like featured on the podcast feedback on this episode and the podcast generally, and of course suggestions for future episodes. While New Hampshire may grow rocks, you my friends grow pollinator gardens, so keep on growing Granite State gardeners we’ll be back in a couple weeks Talk to you soon and thanks for listening as always. Granite State gardening is a production of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and equal opportunity educator and employer. views expressed on this podcast are not necessarily those of the universities, its trustees, or its volunteers. inclusion or exclusion of commercial products in this podcast does not imply endorsement. The University of New Hampshire US Department of Agriculture and New Hampshire counties cooperate to provide extension programming in the Granite State. Learn more at extension that unh.edu
Celebrating Pollinator Week: Supporting Bees in your Yard and Garden is written by Dave Kellam for extension.unh.edu