Growing for Pollinators
The Community Seed Exchange growing area is surrounded on all four sides by a pollinator border. Here we grow many flowering plants that attract pollinators, mainly native bees and European honey bees. The purpose of all this is to increase the quantity and quality of some types of vegetable seeds we produce. We can attract more pollinators to our home gardens as well, whether we are improving seed production or just growing better food for our households.
There are many shrubs, perennials and annuals that attract pollinators. Many of the best ones, especially shrubs, are California natives like coffeeberry, ceanothus, manzanita and the large salvias.
Many common herbs such as dill, coriander, thyme and oregano attract bees. Some popular perennials like nepeta, calamint, gaillardia, salvia ‘Hot Lips’, and sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ are honeybee magnets. Good California native perennials are grindelia, various buckwheats (eriogonum), white yarrow, goldenrod, aster, seaside daisy (erigeron), and salvias. Some annual bee plants are cosmos (tall, single varieties), sunflowers, and borage. Plant annual California wildflowers such as poppies, phacelia and clarkia in the fall.
It’s best to plant in swaths of 3 feet in diameter or more. Try to have a variety of flowers which bloom at different times throughout the year. Even planting in large containers is worthwhile.
California Flora Nursery in Fulton is a great source of native and pollinator plants. Harmony Farm Supply and Emerissa Gardens are also good.
Two excellent books for Northern California gardeners are California Bees and Blooms, A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, by Gordon Frankie and others, and The California Wildlife Habitat Garden by Nancy Bauer.
There are many other books and on-line sources of information including: