Winter isn’t the time for gardeners to stop considering pollinators when they work in their gardens.
Gardeners start worrying about bees and other pollinators in the spring, when cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupes and other cucurbit crops are planted, but they seldom look for pollinators this time of year, says LSU AgCenter fruit and vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot.
The neglect occurs primarily because most fall vegetable crops are leafy greens that do not require a pollinator for production. “Even though the fall garden doesn’t require pollinators, it doesn’t mean pollinators don’t need us,” she says.
Residential and commercial developments are springing up in new locations across the state, and native prairies and forests are cleared for various purposes.
The loss of habitat equates to the loss of blooming plants that feed pollinators.
“As generous as nature is to us, let’s consider giving back to nature this holiday season,” Fontenot says.
Gardeners can do this by allowing a few of their broccoli plants to go to seed.
“Not only will you have gorgeous yellow flowers that brighten the gloomy fall landscape, you’ll also feed the bees,” she says. “Bees flock to broccoli flowers in the wintertime, and it’s very pleasant to visit the garden and work to the tune of their hum.”
Consider this the gift that keeps on giving.
“You’re feeding the bees now, and chances are they’ll return to the garden this spring when you need them to help produce the next crop,” Fontenot says.
If gardeners allow broccoli plants to go to flower, they should avoid using pesticides in the garden.
If you absolutely need to use pesticides, apply them at dusk when most bees are returning to the hive.
The LSU AgCenter has recently produced a fact sheet on cooperative standards adopted by the Louisiana Pollinator Cooperative Conservation Program.
It outlines information for landowners, farmers, applicators and beekeepers to help protect pollinators and their habitats.
You can get a copy online at lsuagcenter.com; put Pub. 3478 in the search box.
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.