Like most years, we kicked off 2015 by looking through the litany of seed catalogs that arrive in our mailbox. We usually leaf through and select a few vegetables for the garden, maybe a few annual flowers. But this year, we have a new goal in mind: maximizing our crop potential while also providing great plants for our bees.
We started by cracking open our ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture book and researching plants that provide loads of pollen and nectar for our tiny winged friends. Below are some plants that we decided to try out this year (in addition to others we already have established) with some details about how they impact our bee brethren.
Thyme itself is a great herb that you can use either fresh or dried, and is often paired with other herbs like oregano, sage, or rosemary. You can typically find it in recipes including pork, duck, lamb, and in Cajun and Creole cooking.
Thyme honey is popular in Greece and the Mediterranean where it’s been a favorite for thousands of years. The honey has a reddish color and a strong flavor.
Sunflowers and beekeepers apparently go way back, as the plants produce abundant amounts of nectar and pollen that are great for the bees. The variety that we selected are known for producing large amounts of sunflower seeds as well, which we plan to enjoy throughout the season.
One word of caution about sunflowers: honey produced from sunflower nectar tends to crystalize more rapidly than some other plants, so you may need to harvest it as soon as possible.
Sage is another herb with tons of uses that we just started experimenting with last year.
Sage honeys tend to be lighter in color and lower in moisture content, and is often blended with honey from other plants to improve the overall quality of the blend.
Unlike Sunflowers, sage honey is high in fructose and therefore is very slow to solidify.
Like sage, honey from soybeans is also used in blends thanks to its light color and mild taste.
Soybeans are self-fertile plants, so honey bees aren’t necessary for pollination, but considering we like soybeans regardless, we figure it may be a win-win.
We’re most interested in seeing how our blackberry plants perform considering that bees are required for pollination. The variety we selected should flower in both the spring and late summer, and the abundant white flowers that they produce are ideal sources of nectar and pollen for bees.
We’ll be sure to do a follow-up post this fall to let everyone know how these plants worked (or didn’t) with the bees.