Gardening | I could always do better…  

By Master Gardener Volunteer Lesley Arrandale
mail@floridanewsline.com

Having tried in spring to grow pole beans — Kentucky Wonder — with minimal success, I resolve to do better. As well as sowing the seeds a bit late in the season, one problem may have been that my yard had too few flowering plants to encourage the bumblebees that I’ve learned are largely responsible for fertilizing bean flowers. I discovered the connection when reading “Sting in the Tale” by a British entomologist, Dr. Dave Goulson. (Also by the same author, “A Buzz in the Meadow”; both books are available at the public library. They may be a little science-heavy at times, but are definitely informative, engaging, and humorously written.)  

Goulson discovered by experiment that bumblebees have particular requirements when it comes to pollen. Legumes, like clovers, beans, and peas — and probably our native legumes, such as redbud (Cercis canadensis), false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), coral bean (Erythrina herbacea), and wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) — produce protein-rich pollens that are also rich in amino acids, and they supply these large insects with a highly nutritious source of food. So I probably didn’t provide enough of the right flowers at the right time to bring in the bees to pollinate my beans. For a selection of native plants to encourage bees in your yard, see https://flawildflowers.org/attracting-bees/.

We can only expect to welcome, and benefit from, wildlife if our yards and gardens supply the resources they need. (Yes, I have mentioned this before.) Currently I am delighted to have plenty of beautyberries (Callicarpa americana) to feed the mockingbirds, cardinals, and brown thrashers, and they have been eating their fill in front of my kitchen window. I’m also hoping to see fall migrants taking advantage of the bounty. One of my favorite late summer wildflowers, Monarda punctata, or dotted horsemint, is in bloom, attracting small native bees, including brightly colored sweat bees, and an assortment of tiny wasps and flies — none of which are aggressive, and most of them are beneficial in various ways.

Visit https://tinyurl.com/y4lmhxkh for the latest edition of our Duval Extension Service newsletter, A New Leaf. Check out Larry Figart’s article on fall color for Florida. Once cooler weather arrives, it will be a good time to plant trees and shrubs, so why not establish some fall color for next year? My neighbor has one of the trees that Figart mentions, the Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii). In autumn I find its leaves in my yard and the rich red color always amazes me. It would be well worth planting if space allows, especially on the southwest side of a home, where it would eventually afford summer shade and then winter light, when its leaves drop. 

It can be useful for gardeners to have a general idea of what the weather has in store for us. One source is the 30-day climate predictions for temperature and drought from NOAA: https://tinyurl.com/yxnrqevg.

I began writing as Hurricane Dorian was churning its way towards Florida, and am thankful that both Puerto Rico and Florida were spared the worst. Nevertheless, heavy rains and gusty winds may impact our landscapes during regular summer storms, so for advice on helping your lawns and gardens recover, see https://tinyurl.com/y3s8sqpf.

Doubtless many of us are thinking of the people of the Bahamas, so many of whom are now in dire need of assistance. And closer to home, there is hurricane damage in the Carolinas. If we can do just a little to help, we can surely make a difference. It could so easily have been us.