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Pollinator attracting plants, how close should they be?

 
gardener
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Hello and thanks in advance,

So I have 3 raised beds.  Two are end-to-end and separated by about 10’-15’ with some comfrey and grass between the beds.

I have a 3rd bed running parallel (across the driveway) about 20’ away.

I am considering converting the 10’-15’ section area from mostly grass to a little flower garden full of pollinator attracting flowers.  I was thinking in addition to comfrey, I would add black eyed Susan’s, cone flowers and Queen Anne’s Lace for starters.  

So my question is how close do my flowers need to be to my veggies to be helpful (the surrounding area is an old pasture that has an abundance of various grasses, Queen Anne’s Lace and assorted other wildflowers.  Is spacing even a serious concern?  

Secondly, what additional flowers (if any) would be good for attracting pollinators and predators?

Thanks in advance,

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Sorry guys, I had to change the title of the thread as it appeared to be asking a completely separate question.

When I asked how close pollinators should be, I did not mean pollinators here on Permies.  I did not mean that they should be socially close or geographically close.  I am embarrassed that I wrote something that could be so badly misinterpreted.  My bad.

What I really meant was how close should pollinator attracting plants be to the beds/crops we want to be pollinated.  10 feet?  20 feet?  A quarter mile?  I just don't know what distance between pollinator attracting plant and crop becomes meaningful.

Thanks in advance and sorry if this was in any way confusing.

Eric
 
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If you plant it, they will come.

Bees can see some colors (as we know them) and can see in the Ultraviolet spectrum which is one of the ways bees find forage and can sense the flowers electromagnetic field.
How bees see



As close as possible it the best answer, and within proximity is the next answer.

When bees are foraging dandelions, they stick with dandelions, but the scouts are on the lookout for what is flowering next.

Try to plant succession flowers, some for early Spring, Spring, early, mid late Summer and Fall. Early Spring and Fall are really important and drought tolerant during summer in case of dearth.

Here is a start:

Melissa
Mint
Echinacea
Comfrey
Hyssop
Clover

Here is a link to plant lists by state which anyone reading can use. Not complete but a guide.

Bee forage plants by state

ETA - images

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What we see on the left, what a bee sees on the right 1
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What we see on the left, what a bee sees on the right 2
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What we see on the left, what a bee sees on the right 4
 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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You'd probably have to look at the habits of the specific pollinator species in question.

I think one aspect of what you're trying to determine, correct me if I'm wrong, is the area of influence of pollinator attracting plants. There will be more factors than simply how species use the plants in question. Honeybees, for instance, will probably take into account the volume of potential nectar and pollen, or the density of pollinator-attracting plants, in any given area, seeing as how they range something like a three kilometre radius from their hives. They will fly to the limits of their range for a rich enough food source, but I would surmise that they would favour density, so as to add efficiency to their flight paths.

I would ask a different question: How close can they be? How many can you cram into unused spaces and marginal areas without blocking light? How many different species, with how many different blooming windows, can you fit into your plan? Are there understory pollinator-attracting plants that grow in your area that you could chuck in every dark or shady spot you don't already have occupied?

Considering your specific situation, I think making sure you don't choose plants that might compete for resources with your food crops is a good strategy.

One idea I like for my own applications is a food hedge selected for its pollinator-servicing qualities. I would personally use cane berries of different species, raspberries and blackberries primarily, but with different blooming times, so as to make sure they are serving as attractants and food for as long in the season as possible. I would probably take a similar approach with multiple types of currant planted at the feet of the cane berries, and several types of chive thrown in for good measure.

If I had more room than for a single large row of berries, I would probably add some mulberry trees, and perhaps hazels and larger fruit trees. It wouldn't make sense not to plant an overstory nut tree, too, but that wouldn't really serve the pollinators so much as it would the larger ecosystem.

I would also keep in mind that vining fruit-bearing plants can and will readily cover structural elements in the yard, to your benefit, and sometimes with only a bit of string to help them. I would look at stuff like grape, if there's a type that likes your specific microclimate, for fruit or fermentation, whichever. They will both produce lots of tiny flowers.

Oh, and anecdotally, poppies can be both gorgeous, and really popular with honeybees. I was strolling through a friend's garden last season, picking a salad for later, when I heard a low buzzing right by my face. I focused on the poppy right in front of my face, and there before me were at least a dozen, I shit you not, twelve honeybees just going apeshit within this single poppy blossom.

I have also used beebalm and beeplant, and other things with bee- in the popular name. They usually get those names for a reason, I find, and not once have I had reason to regret that analysis.

-CK
 
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Different pollinators prefer different plants.

Flies don't visit squash blossoms, but they love carrot flowers.

Honeybees tend to only work the plants that they love, and ignore everything else.

Bumblebees tend to examine lots of different species of flowers while foraging.

Squash bees are only interested in squash.

Some species of moths tend to mope around on their preferred flower. Other species flit from flower to flower.

I tend to think as pollination as an ecosystem-level event. If you are feeding pollinators lots of different things, at lots of different times, then their populations are higher in the ecosystem, and they'll provide better overall pollination to vegetables.

Honeybees fly up to two miles to forage. Leaf-cutter bees at my place harvest leaves about 100 feet from their nests. The place where bumblebees nest on my farm is 300 feet from where they forage.

 
Eric Hanson
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Hey, thanks guys,

So I am sort of planning a little flower garden between garden beds in order to attract pollinators.  Some good news, I already have some comfrey planted in the area I am talking about.  When they grow,? I typically let them set some flowers before I harvest them.  Possibly this reduced my total yield, but I really don’t care, I like the flowers, insects and I can harvest whenever I want.

I have planted mint in another bed and by now that is all that bed grows.  I love mint, but it is such a weed!  Conceivably I could just sow some mint in the tall grasses near the beds and let them grow Willy nilly.  I have also noticed that catnip attracts bees like mad!  I will keep some of the other species in mind as well.

Thanks again,

Eric
 
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On the scale you're talking about spacing won't be a concern. You've got thousands of feet of impact for sure
 
Eric Hanson
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Hello s,

I was kinda hoping that was going to be the case.  If what you are saying is true, my little flower garden might not actually do much.  The reason I say is that the garden beds are flanked immediately by an old pasture with plenty of grass and wild flowers already.  Don’t get me wrong, I am still going to try something, but it might not compete much with all the wildlife that is already there.

Eric
 
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