Veggies Need Flowers and Flowers Need Bees

I received an email from High Country Gardens a week or so ago reminding me that vegetable plants need flowering plants around them to produce vegetables.  This is like preaching to the choir, as they say.

Of course High Country Gardens was trying to sell its lovely selection of pre-planned gardens and herbs.  And I have ordered a few things from them in the past and I can tell you that as a mail order source goes, they are superior.  They sell large-sized, high quality plants, and even though they are coming from the desert southwest, they arrive at my home in the northeast in great condition.

But I don’t have a lot of need for their xeric plants in my more humid climate–in fact, a lot of them won’t survive here because it is too wet (although many of the regular perennials will, of course). 

I remember quite well back in my days in retail gardening many of my customers would come to me an say that their squash or cucumbers were not producing.  I’d ask if they had flowers and they’d say “sometimes,” or “A few.”  Then I’d ask if they had bees.  “Not really.  Not like I used to see.”

So I’d tell them that they needed to attract bees to their yards–and inevitably I’d hear the objections to bees and stinging.  It wasn’t too hard a sell when I was working at the garden center and we were surrounded by flowering plants all day that were covered in big fat bumble bees.  I could walk over to a plant, pick it up, even if it were covered in the bumble bees and say, “Look.  Unless I accidentally grab one of these bees with my hands, they leave me alone.  They don’t care about you.  They want to pollinate these plants.  That’s how you get cucumbers.”

I could also tell them that I’d been working around those bees for 5 years by the time I’d left and I’d never been stung.  That gave me great credibility.

At the big box store it was a little harder to find the bees and make the point.

But it is true nonetheless that you do need flowers to attract the bees to pollinate the plants and get the veggies.  And while bees are not quite as susceptible to pesticides as butterflies are, why are we growing our own veggies if not to eat better than what we can buy at the grocery store?  Keep the chemicals away from the bees and your veggies.  The veggies will taste a lot better and they’ll be a lot better for you–and the bees will thank you too!

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