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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm in the midlands of south carolina, zone 7b.

I wanted to share some things I have learned about this, and also to open the matter up for more questions and discussion.

I am thinking about getting a little more serious about beekeeping. I am trying to figure out the best system for creating perenial bee pasture.

I have been planting fescue and clover. Fescue for general appearance, and of course, white clover for nectar. some red clover. No crimson since I hear bees can't use it as well.

I have avoided other types of clover since they form a tall weedlike habit.

I have had great success with buckwheat, as long as it's Mancan variety. Im convinced at this point that buckwheat is an important part of a sideline bee operation if one does not already have fields of alfalfa or heather within bee proximity, which I don't. Most folks around here grow fescue for cows. My neighbors are professional grass farmers. I have had some luck talking them into throwing some clover in their grain drills, but clover seed is 3 to 5 dollars a pound around here, depending on the type.

I hav heard suggestions about differnet types of clover, but after some research, I learned that some types are very tall and more weed-like than anything else. You can't move over it and still expect to have any type of a nectar production before season end. Since white and red clover are low growing, if you mow them they don't have a lot of growing to do to possibly produce another head. (now mind you I learned this second hand from a farmer neighbor, so I assume it is true.)

So what seed is out there with the following criteria:

1. price - comparable to clover - 3 to 5 dollars per pound;

2. able to be mowed/bush hogged once in the spring, once in the fall (or more frequent)

3. nectar production- sustained and high production.

4. perennial is preferred (the annual buckweat produces so much nectar for so long it is worth the trouble, though it is annual. And it does re-seed it'self.)
 

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I too an interested in this, but One correction ford, bee will work crimsons clover but red clover is what they have a problem working. I had a good yield off crimson last year, I have crimson coming up again from it reseeding itself last year and when it dies I want to replant in buckwheat and get your secret for growing it down here ;) , I'm going with dutch white and ladino clover next year, the trick is to bush-hog the tops and leave the plant about 8-10 inches and it will bloom till fall, would like to know a few other to plant though. good post
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
aha, thanks Ted. you know, now that you mention it, I have gotten those backwards before - thanks for keeping me straight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
As for buckwheat, I will share something I am embarrassed about - I bought three bags total, one for me, one for a buddy, wink, and a test bag.

The buddy will pick his up sometime in April or thereafter, I will harrow mine in when I get back on april 15th, and the test bag.....well...

I broadcast it two weeks ago. (!) Now one of the rules of buckwheat which I am learning the HARD way is that it is extremely frost sensitive. I cast it on topthe ground. About 10% was harrowed in, the rest was left to lay on top.

The 10% harrowed in was up over an inch in a week and a half. So far so good. But we had 2 days where at dew drop it was 32 degrees. We had a light frost. All of the harrowed buckwheat was frost killed. (about 4 dollars worth, no biggie.)

The rest which was left laying on top did NOT germinate. I thought it would germinate but more slowly. This tells me I should be able to go back and harrow that remaining 90% left laying on top the ground and it should be ok.

edit- little more about buckwheat:(OP) Fagopyrum esculentum Grows quickly to 24 inches in ordinary garden soil. It has minimal nutritional needs and will accumulate insoluble phosphorous that it releases back into the soil when tilled under. The brittle roots are easy to chop up with a hoe. Should be tilled in when flowering begins (5-6 weeks after germination). (HAHA, NOT!) Because of its dense growth, buckwheat can smother out the most tenacious weeds, even thistle! An excellent attractant for beneficial insects. Recommended seeding rate: 1 pound per 500 square feet; 50 pounds per acre. (I like 50 pounds for half acre)

[ March 29, 2006, 11:15 PM: Message edited by: FordGuy ]
 

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nectar on the clover varies a lot based on rainfall. we've had a bad drought so I lost all the white and crimson and vetch in the fields and they are quite proud of the seed this year.

i'd like to find a good perenial source. The bees love my wife's herb garden and they bloom for months? why can't I plant 20 acres of anise hyssop?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
anise hyssop? cause it's like crazy spensive?

[ March 30, 2006, 12:45 AM: Message edited by: FordGuy ]
 

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Borage. Bees love it, it grows like a weed, prefers poor dry soil, blooms forever, is hardy in all zones, survives light frosts, requires little water, reseeds itself prolifically, and is low maintainance. It is however rather expensive- FEDCO Seeds has it for about $13 for a half pound. It comes up wild in our vegetable gardens so we don't plant it where we want it, we pull it up where we don't want it.

I'm actually planning on growing some Anise Hyssop this year.

George-
 

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When growing up on the farm in TN, we planted buckwheat early to mid Aug. with crimson. The bees made winter stores from the buckwheat.
leamon
 

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I planted sweet white, yellow, alsike and white dutch in 1 acre plots 2 years ago. The white and yellow didn’t bloom the first year but alsike did some. Last year they all bloomed but the alsike was a carpet of bloom most of the summer. Bees would work the alsike heavily and pretty much ignore the white and yellow. I bought alsike at $1.00 per pound and drilled it at 5 to 7 # per acre and got a good stand. Buckwheat is a economical way ($18 for 50#) to get supplies built up for winter if you don’t have good fall flows but around here we seem to have something going on until frost. Maple is starting to bloom here (central Iowa), I am sure happy about that. Bees can be real pests on warm days with nothing for them to do.
 

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>I have been planting fescue and clover. Fescue for general appearance, and of course, white clover for nectar. some red clover. No crimson since I hear bees can't use it as well.

You might want to plant either endophyte free fescue or endophyte friendly fescue in case you want to graze the pasture. Regular fescue is poisonous to cows and horses, especially pregnant horses. Some people graze them on it, but it causes a lot of health problems.
 

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Also, tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is absolutely horrible for wildlife. Like Michael said, it is bad for any livestock where you raise offspring (horses & dairy cows) because of the endophyte problem. Farmers raising beef cattle can plant it for forage because steers and young heifers aren't affected. Any critters that live close to the ground (quail, rabbits, box turtles, etc) can't get through it when they are young and become snacks for predators. Fescue won't hurt bees but there are other grasses that are better all around and better for wildlife (and aren't imported from Europe). Fescue will also crowd out any native wildflowers because of it's aggressive nature.

Alsike and white dutch clover are good for forage. Plain old native wildflowers and weeds are probably better because they are locally adapted, can survive weather extremes, and provide a diversity of nectar sources. You won't get those bumper crops you might get with a monotype but you will have a more stable forage base that can get the bees through poor weather.
 

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There are several species of fescue. Tall fescue is the one to avoid. Check the label on the bag. Sometimes tall fescue is sold as a mixture. That's the same thing as planting the stuff straight because in a few years the only think you'll have is tall fescue. It will out compete everything else. The stuff works great for someone who innocently "wants to plant some grass" because it will grow almost anywhere, establishes itself readily, is tough and holds the soil well, and it is very cheap to buy. The problem is it is an imported exotic and the critters in our ecosystems haven't adapted to living with it in the few decades it's been introduced (because most types carry an endophyte fungus). In central Illinois it's everywhere. It's alongside the roadways, in the waterways, in our lawns and anywhere else people live. The government soil conservation services promoted planting it for decades until the downside was known. Some still do. The stuff is hard to kill and it takes years and persistence to be really effective because the seed persists in the soil. It is spread readily in manure so cattle are a good vector. So I guess what I'm trying to say is all grass isn't equal or as good for wildlife as anything else. I've been killing it for years and after it's gone the increased diversity and populations of many types of wildlife is pretty astounding.
 

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Buckwheat grows pretty well all the way to Canada, but the frost will kill it early. It will grow volunteers for a few years after you plant. If you stagger the planting you can get blooms from early to the first frost.
 

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i read on a website that buckwheat can be grown as sort of a smothering forage, is that true? Ive spent lots of time and money trying to kill out the fescue in my feilds so that i can grow other forages, would be nice to just crowd it out.
 
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