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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm not sure if this fits better here or in the Great Outdoors forum.

Anyway, several years ago after a long dispute with a jerk neighbor, I had part of my property set up with the Department of Agriculture as a certified pollinator habitat. The patch has admittedly been neglected for a few years and the quality of the plants has steadily declined. What was once a thriving patch of milkweed has been reduced to a goldenrod forest. While goldenrod is a native plant and it provides food and shelter for many pollinators (but only for a very brief time in the fall) I have finally got the time and good weather to rip it all out and start over.

Hubby and I spent the past several days tilling the patch, and the rest of that garden plot so it can be replanted. The existing milkweed should be fine. Milkweed has a large underground root system similar to Canadian thistles and often grows better in tilled fields. By getting the tilling done before the roots start growing we hope to see an increased number of plants this year. I did lose the asters and ironweed growing in that patch. There are mature ironweed plants along the edges of the garden and I planted a few perennials in the strip dedicated to the grapes.

For this patch I am planning on planting annuals, at least this year. Next year is a long time away. I want to see how well my seed mix works or if I am throwing money away. I have put a lot of thought into what flowers would be best for feeding insects and what can be purchased easily in my location. I added some options for a cover crop to give the patch the appearance of the native Ohio prairie and to offer shelter to ground nesting birds. This is not supposed to look like a well maintained and proper flower bed. It needs to look similar to a grass prairie without the perennial grasses. I think oats would be a good grass substitute. Oat seed might be hard to find but many feed stores carry oats which will sprout and grow well. My oat crop that sprang from the rabbit waste was always lush and green. Other carrier (more of that than any particular flower) options are buckwheat and crimson clover. If I could find non-gmo alfalfa I would consider that but so far it seems to be difficult to find.

This is the preliminary list;
Carrier crop;
oats
buckwheat
crimson clover

Annual flowers and herbs;
dill (necessary for Black Swallowtail caterpillars which eat dill)
zinnia
dwarf sunflowers
cosmos
cleome
borage
marigold
aster
baby's breath
Missouri primrose (may use some transplants from my yard)
bachelor buttons
plumed celosia
calendula

The plot is about 30 feet x 30 feet. Many pre-made mixes have quite a bit of perennial seed and are expensive. It would take 5 bags of the mix to cover this spot and it wouldn't have the carrier that I want. I could cut the mix to 2 or 3 bags with the carrier cover, but even then it would cost just as much as the seed in the cheaper packages at Wal-mart or the dollar store.

I plan on mixing the seed with coir fiber to make spreading easier, then we are going to cover the patch with a light straw mulch. I think I should spread the straw loose on the ground then chop it finer with the lawn mower.

There are still a few weeks before our last typical spring frost date. I sure don't want to put all this effort and money into the project just to have it nipped by frost or a late freeze.

If anyone has any comments or suggestions I would love to hear it. If I think of it I will get pictures of the bare patch later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Maybe in a few years I'll do a perennial planting. But for this year I have to go with annuals even though they are not native flowers.

The bad thing about that spot is the seriously aggressive goldenrod. It doesn't take long for 2 plants to become 200. And I am still fighting thistles, I will probably be fighting thistles there as long as I own the place.

Thanks for the link. I'll have to bookmark it and do some research to see if those plants will thrive here.
 

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It's important to pay attention to the timing of blooming so the bugs have a continuing source of nectar as the seasons pass. Perennials tend to bloom at characteristic times (like you note about goldenrod) while annuals bloom for long periods.

Dandelions are important early bloomers. Plantain, another weed, is still a preferred nectar source for bumble bees. Coneflower and Monarda (bee balm) are mid-summer bloomers and well utilized by pollinators.

Do you have to go with an "either or" schedule? Why not get started with both annuals and perennials this year? It may take the perennials a year to establish.

Don't forget to include a water source-- a little mud puddle will make bees happy, and you might try adding some low cost housing Bee Houses for Native Solitary Bees | The Old Farmer's Almanac
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm going to stick with the annuals this year. The plot has been a weedy mess for a few years and I want to make sure the weeds don't take over in a couple years again. There are native perennials scattered around the property and I plan to put in more, just not this year.

I was surprised to see the number of honey bees in the plantain last summer. I didn't realize they got anything from that plant. The lawn surrounding the garden is full of plantain and white clover. I let it flower and didn't mow until most of the clover flowers were turning brown.

I am still researching bee houses. Much of the information is confusing and makes the whole process more involved than it should be. Commercially made bee houses all incorporate bamboo tubes. Bamboo is not a native plant. The leaf cutting bees that made nests in the ridges on the bottom of my flowerpot saucers didn't read the information about where they were supposed to nest.

There is a small creek on the property. Any artificial water source would need daily maintenance. The 4 footed critters would also cause problems. The last time I had a puddle in the garden it was messed up by a groundhog.

I had thought about adding jewelweed to the patch but it is in full sun and tends to dry out a bit in the summer. Jewelweed needs more moisture than this plot offers. I'm going to try transplanting some near the creek.
 

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I used sunflower stalks cut to 4" lengths and then hollowed out with a drill to make a couple bee houses this winter. I found some mouse nesting in the wood pile and baited the houses with that when I set them out last week. It's supposed to attract the bees...I'll let you know if it works.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I never though of using sunflower stalks. I'll try to remember them this fall. I was going to try to find paper straws and build a house but haven't remembered to look for the straws when I have money.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
The link provided by doc- says to avoid bamboo. After looking more it seems the problems are parasites and disease that can be spread by close nesting bees. If the houses and hotels are cleaned every other year those problems can be avoided.

Yes, a bee house of some type would be great. I'll have to check on drill bits next time I go to Lowes. I think drilling holes in some of my fire wood logs would be a good idea. Use a small log and burn it after the bees emerge the next year.
 
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