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  1. #1
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    Default advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    so im gonna scrape about 1/2-3/4 of an acre this spring to plant something for my bees. i want to have 5 hives by the end of the season and a couple nucs. when reading about this topic i heard a lot of people suggesting to plant yellow sweet clover. but when i looked into it i found that it is an obligate biennial and an invasive species, so as an ecologist i simply cannot plant that plus it would be 2015 before it flowered. so i went back to my original idea which was to plant canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) which is native in these parts, grows really well here too, and is the source for our largest annual honey flow as well. but seeds are about $200 per pound!!! that pound probably wont come close to planting the proposed plot.

    does anyone know where i can find cheaper canada goldenrod? or know of another native plant that is easy to grow, cheap, and is a good source for honey production?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    In fall I would find a field and harvest the seed heads. Then cold storage and plant next year. A field like this would be a good candidate. I wouldn't pay for seed, my hives have plenty of forage all year long.

    clover is very good producer around here, goldenrod is hit or miss, often too hot and dry.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    Before I started with bees I barely noticed the goldenrod all over the edges of my property. I know it would set you back a year but as burns suggests you can probably find it all over. Last year I was on a run and noticed a 1/2 acres plot less than 1/2 a mile from my house that only had goldenrod on it.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    Don't monocrop with anything like goldenrod which only blooms for part of the season.

    Consider that a dense plot may attract other bees close to your hives.

    What is on the gorund, now?

    As a horticulturist/botanist I am skeptical of the efficacy of small scale (and less than an acre is small scale) food nectar/pollen specifically for bees. I think mixed plantings are better, but much harder to get establiched if you are seeding.

    I think it would be better to document the existing sources and duplicate (seed, cuttings, divisions) of what's already there. What is missing, and when, in the steady flow of blooms in your area?

    Also keep in mind that bees themselves are exotic species, not native to the US. To some degree they are displacing native pollinators on native plant.


    There are many species of goldenrod (I think NY has 70+ and MI probably does too.) They bloo over a long period and in quite different ecological niches. This requires some careful planning.

    If you were to establish goldenrod, I would start it in a seed bed and translant, after ward for economy's sake.

    I think mixed wildfloer or pollinator seed scattered about is almost always a failure, beloved by clueless gardeners - and sold - and resold - by the ton by seed merchants who ought to know better, but enjy the profits nonetheless.

    I will come back to this, but I have a short window to do an urgent bee-job, and must run.

    Enj.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    If you were to establish goldenrod, I would start it in a seed bed and translant, after ward for economy's sake.

    I think mixed wildfloer or pollinator seed scattered about is almost always a failure, beloved by clueless gardeners - and sold - and resold - by the ton by seed merchants who ought to know better, but enjy the profits nonetheless.
    I don't get what you mean, perhaps lacking in experience. I wouldn't make a seed bed, thats alot of time and work. I would simply rake/till an area and scatter seeds all over the place. Some will take and eventually it will be everywhere if you don't mow. Mowers and bush hogs are a big no no for wildlife and habitat. Farmers should let the fields grow up, the fence rows get stragly.

    This field also has many other stuff, clover, trees, it just looks like monocrop while gr is bloom, but there is snakeroot, golden honey, asters. Look around im sure theres plenty of natural forage unless your in monocrop farmland, I've never seen a need to plant except for my own pleasure or food. In the end its very time consuming and costly for not much if any reward. I would rather move my hives to exploit an area high in forage rather than planting it.

    Here is the field from far away. The ohio river is to the left across the road.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    This is your home apiary and not an outyard? You could also just work more white (dutch) clover into your yard which also helps your lawn.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    OK so this would be in my back yard. I know golden rod is everywhere, i wish i would have thought about this last year I would have harvested seed from across the road. But I didn't.

    I don't like seed mixes very much, i bought a packet of a native wildflower mix before I had bees and turned out it contained invasive garlic mustard seeds... anyways i didn't want to mix the plot much because i didn't want to create a competitive environment.

    Also i get it, my Russian bees aren't native, doesn't mean i should start putting Asian carp in my pond and letting yellow sweet clover overrun the field across the street that contains many native grassses and wildflowers.

    As a horticulturist can you recommend a mix of Michigan natives for a mesic to wet mesic site? Ill make the mix myself from buying pure seed.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    Also i know its not going to change anything in honey production. But I wanted to plant something the could use for honey production, mostly so i can walk out there and observe them working, plus I like planting this around the house, and I especially like the golden rod in the fall.

    Right now its just cut grass and white clover

  9. #9
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    I'm not sure what grows in your area... But... The following is what I'm looking at planting on my land...

    1 acre worth of bee bee trees with white dutch or Yellow sweet clover planted in the rows. (yellow has more nectar, but you didn't like it).. I'd look to plant something that blooms during your normal dearth.

    Planted in 12 ft rows and 12 ft apart would be 303 trees to an acre. Personally, I'd plant them closer then thin them out as they grew bigger... Something like 8ft rows for bushing hogging and 4-8 ft between trees... You can always cut them down, it's harder to start a seedling in the middle of a forest.

    Then you could do black locust around the border, but it's thorny and possibly invasive depending on area..... If you don't like the beebee tree, you could possibly plant tulip poplars...

    You might want to look at Hubam clover. It blooms same year that's planted, assuming it's planted early enough.

    You could plant black berry Plants... 6ft rows, 3ft apart... ~2400 plants..

    With all of that said.... The bees fly a 2-5 mile circle around the hive.. 5 miles is 50,000 acres.... So, your bees might just fly past your 1/2-3/4 acre.

    So, you might want to look at the best personal use of the land, while trying to be bee friendly.... 1 acre herb garden?
    Last edited by KevinR; 02-22-2014 at 04:19 PM.
    Solo for the last 4 Years, ~60 Hives, TF + Oils.
    http://tradingwebsites4bees.com

  10. #10
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    Ok, I'm back (had a few cold-stunned bees as overnight guests last night and they had to get the back out to the hives during the few minutes today when it was warm enough here to hope they would recognize their homes and fly back in.)

    Anyway, here's what I meant about establishing a seed bed and transplanting (and it applies to all kinds of perennial things you might want to start and add to your local plants).

    The problem with "wildflower mixes" is that they are often cheap seeds, and even when they are not they rely on the horticulturally dubious notion that scattering seeds onto either clear ground or existing vegetation will be successful in introducing desirable plants. Desirable is the key word here - generally invasive or agressive plants will be able to out compete the native plants (whether true "natives" or merely what's presently there) while other ones won't. Just scraping or tilling the soil will remove existing the plants' associations, allowing more weedy plants to take over. Unless you plan on using herbicide to control the newly released weeds, you are just upsetting the balance, with little improvment.

    However if you want to add some specific plants to what is there already, an effective way is to germinate them in a separate seedbed where you can control weeds, grow them into small plants and then transplant them around in the area where you hope they will take hold. That way you are not wasting money flinging seed around and hoping to get something going. Small plants the size of, say cabbage transplants, are easy to plant: water them well, then make a sharp shovel cut (narrow 3-4" wide blade and flat is best but any kind works if you're not doing thousands); push the the shovel blade down a bit deeper than the root ball of the transplant and then without pulling the shovel out, pull it towards you creating a small wedge-shaped hole. Slip the transplant into the hole (as long as it's not too deeply buried and is upright, it will adjust). With the shovel several inches away shove it in again only this time a bit shallower and push that soil back towards the slit with new plant in it, closing the hole and creating a small divot nearby which will collect rainwater over the next few months. Gently step the soil around the plant down and water well. And if you do this in the spring unless you have a droughty summer the plants should do well. Unless they get eaten by rabbits, woodchucks, deer, etc., or are subject to diseases, bugs etc. In which case the plant wouldn't have grown well anyway if you had tried a wild plant seeding on scraped ground - and that may be why it wasn't here in the first place? (BTW, transplanting doesn't work well with plants with tap roots, like those in the carrot - Umbelliferae - family as they resent transplanting, but for other it's quite easy.)

    Which brings me back to my first argument against trying to establish plants for the bees: unless you are planning to undertake what amounts to agricultural-scale plantings for the bees you are just tinkering on the margins. You might be better-served by intensely cataloging the plants you see the bees working over the course of a year or two, and then propating those by division or seeding. (Again just because it is a wild flower, doesn't mean that the most efficient way to get a few dozen -or hundred - plants might not be a deidcated seed bed, or even plastic trays.)

    Now trees are a slightly different affair and come with other issues. Many trees that normally grow in forest associations won't be terribly happy, nor grow particularly well, when plunked down in open country in an artifical, human-created "forest". Forests grow from the edges outward, or out of groups of specific pioneer species trees that create small islands of forest-friendly soil mirco-organisms that are simply NOT present in open ground. If you want to grow trees for the bees, plant them pratically inside the forest, not out in the open.

    I should confess that I don't always follow my own advice about planting wild things. I am always bringing things back to try on my farm - what true gardener doesn't? Sometimes I am really sorry when things do well, too well! I have planted many hundreds of tree seedlings in the quarter century I have lived here, as well. The trees that have done the best have been the ones I haven't planted, though. And the deer have enjoyed it all immensely!

    I can't make any specific recommendations about what to plant, other than this suggestion: set yourself the task this summer of learning to identify all of the plants in your prospective bee fields, and note whether you see the bees working them or not. Keep good records about when the blooming period starts and stops. (and that will change from year to year). Then expland outward, as your bees are certainly doing. If you see something that isn't at your place, that your bees are working hard, think about how to bring it back and plant it in large clusters (clusters of smaller plants in groups, not one large clump) in similar niches at your place. That way you can bring in what your bees prefer not what somebody, some time defined as "pollinator plants", which may be true in other areas but not yours if something else blooms locally that the bees just prefer.

    Also don't overlook the notion I mentioned in my first post: if you intensively plant something that's highly attractive to honey bees, you will draw bees beside yours to it, no matter what. And that has the risks that you are attracting potential robbers close in to your hives, and exposing your bees to mites and diseases that they might not have been exposed to - at least at the same intensity.

    Do you have a good source of supplemental water that the bees can use? That is a fascinating place to watch bee activity outside the hive. They particularly like skanky, slightly algae-ified water sources. My bees are not best pleased when I clean out their watering tray when they had it just about where they wanted it.

    There is a very useful-looking (though a bit expensive ~$40, I think) that has colored pictures of pollen to help you identify what your bees are bringing back in.

    I have been gardening and "botanzing" pretty much for my whole (long) life. And I've only had bees for less than a year. But the bees have enormously enriched and broadened my perspectives on the plants here on my farm despite the fact that I have been sudying them for decades already. It was quite wonderful towards the end of last summer and I can't wait to start my observations again in the Spring when I'm sure new ideas about the familiar plants will be revealed by close observations of my bees on them. (That is if this winter ever ends!)

    Enj.

  11. #11
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    Dec 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    Here is what I planted in my backyard last year. Goldenrods will do nicely since they multiply somewhat even in the drought that I did not water them. There will be no bloom if you don't water them in the hot summer months. The green and purple canola will help the bees too that are drought tolerant to some extent. Edible Mustard will grow and the bees love their flowers. If you like the goldenrods then don't plant the seeds because it will take too long for them to get establish. I traded a big package of goldenrod plantlets with a trader here last year. Get the plants if you can as this will get them to establish faster. I planted the pin size seeds all scattered on my backyard but none sprouted. So go for the plants if you can find them. It is your yard so you can plant anything you like for your bees.

  12. #12

    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    There is a very useful-looking (though a bit expensive ~$40, I think) that has colored pictures of pollen to help you identify what your bees are bringing back in.
    Is that a book or poster, Enjambres? Do you know the name so I can find it?

    Dputt, me being in Texas means I don't have a lot of advice to give you about what will do well in your Michigan, but I can say that there is an inverse relationship between money and patience. You might give Enjambres' advice to transplant from a seed bed some thought. And to see what bees forage nearby and try to introduce those things to your land.

    I work at the info desk of a popular local garden center and field this same question from people every day - where are the seeds they can just throw out in their yard to make a wildflower meadow/prairie grass meadow/gorgeous green expanse of lawn/etc. Enjambres is right when (s)he says it's not that easy. It's not impossible if you're willing to do a good bit of work caring for it as it gets established, but it's surely not easy.
    Last edited by The Redneck Hippie; 04-08-2014 at 07:19 AM. Reason: adding another thought

  13. #13
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    My suggestion is to spend a year seeing what the bees are visiting when and then try to determine what you can plant to fill in the gaps. This presupposes there are some pollen and nectar generating plants in your area - I'm trying to plant stuff later this spring to try and provide food to both my bees and native pollinators during our traditional mid summer dearth. Will my plantings make an immediate difference, probably not, but I'm trying to place plants that are native but not abundant in my area that will expand in future years. On the docket for this year: heather, common and rose milkweeds, Joe Pye weed. And about an acre of buckwheat. Part of my rationale is to try and keep the bees home at times of the year when insecticides are commonly used on agricultural areas within flying distance of my yard.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  14. #14
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    May 2013
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    I don't think anything can be better than sweet yellow clover. It's the only thing I've seen that they actually state (for honey production) on.
    It is bilennial, grows two years, flowers and seeds out the second year. Also consider great for improving your soil.
    Robbin NW Florida(8A) / 14 hives / 2 nd Year / 4 TF - 10T {OAV}

  15. #15
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    Jul 2013
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    Default Re: advice needed for medium sized plot for honey production

    well i have kinda decided not to go ahead with this. i wasnt afraid to spend some money on it, just didnt want to pay hundreds for it. i wasnt worried about spending time to care for it. and the whole point wasnt just honey production or profit. i wanted a decent sized place on my property for native plants that could be pollinated by my bees. i really wanted golden rod because its really common and is responsible for our biggest honey flow of the year here. basically i wanted a a bunch of flowers out by the barn so i could watch the bees work and what ever other wildlife wants to show up. and a little extra honey would be cool too.

    i think ill just spend some time this year collecting my own wildflower seeds, i know my way around the common wildflowers pretty well out here and have a good grasp of whats native and what isn't, though my father is the real expert there so ill ask for his help.

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