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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I live in No. Idaho, today's high is 17 with a low of 12. Garden planting is not recommended til May 15.

I place several hives at a nut and berry farm that also has many other flowers for the bees to visit. The owner has two more acres he has tilled and wants to plant something but not add too much work to his already heavy load. So he says we should plant for the bees. I have been reading this forum off and on today and have visited a few websites like Project Apis and seed suppliers for pollinators. Looks like most of the common plants used for this purpose need to be planted in the fall. So, are there seeds that can be sown this spring that will produce forage material this year? Don't know a thing about farming, tilling, planting, etc. I did suggest we might plant cover crop/green manure that could benefit bees and soil when tilled under.

Any suggestions or advice greatly appreciated.

Soapy
 

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clovers - white and sweet.
Charlie
 

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This is just a suggestion on my very small scale compare to 2 acres. I planted the dwarf teddy bear sunflowers the last time. Harvested lots of seeds at the end. They only grow to 2 feet tall, free standing with multiple flower heads and not take up much space. My bees were on them all summer long. Not sure about the nectar produced but for sure they have pollen on my bees. Imagine 2 acres of sunflowers. Wowww! What a sight. And the chicken like them too. I'm sure other animals will.
 

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Great question - unfortunately I don't think there is one proper answer.

Questions that you need to answer include what is the current state of the soil and what kinds of equipment is available to prepare the soil, plant the seed and potentially harvest whatever you decide to grow.

Then you can ask yourself is there a particular time of year that you want to provide forage for. Here in Maine we have lots of things (like apples and blueberries) blooming in the 2nd half of May, but not so much in the first half of August before Goldenrod comes on strong.

Once you've answered these questions you can start deciding what crops will work for you. Around here Buckwheat is often grown as a green manure and bees make good use of it. Various planting techniques (mostly breaking a large parcel into smaller sections) can make for a long bloom period. The clovers can be excellent if they are not harvested for hay before flowering.

It sounds like your landowner wants to do a one and done - meaning that they are willing to do something once to improve the land. In that case you ought to be looking at self seeding annuals or perennials.

I encourage you to talk with your local Cooperative Extension or Soil and Water Conservation folks to come up with a workable informed plan.

I encourage you too to have the soil tested before planting anything.
 

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I live in No. Idaho, today's high is 17 with a low of 12. Garden planting is not recommended til May 15.
There are lots of garden crops that can and should be planted before the middle of May in the north. Onion sets, onion transplants, lettuce transplants, lettuce seed, Brassica transplants, beet seed. Spinach seed should be up and growing well before the middle of May. …Just to name a few.

Many people can't grow head lettuce and spinach because they're planted too late.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for all the input. I have thought about the labor and equipment needs and the landowner has both to accommodate the project. I am going over to talk to him this week to talk about what it will actually take to do this and make sure we both understand the practical side of what needs to be done.

Also, Sainfoin has been on my radar for a couple of years but I do not think it will work as a green manure. I may be wrong so I will check further. I am trying to make a strong effort that what we do will improve soil conditions for any future project the landowner chooses to do. I also know bees love Borage but some Noxious Weed boards have it on their list as unwanted.

I am also aware not all seeds are equal and I will have to research sources to insure the best quality I can find.

Sounds like, as suggested, a trip to the Extension Office is in my future.

Don't stop if you have other comments.

Thanks again.
 

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dandelions, white dutch clover, sweet clover, i plant borage but it gets tall and unruly, vetch, hearing more and more about mustard as a green manure and bee forage. is there a time when nothing else is blooming? i could use more forage the last couple weeks of june, i'm good till then and good after that. think about when it would be the most beneficial and chose plants that bloom then, or plant for a bloom then.
 

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From my experience spinach, chard, and lettuce the bees don't like.
They like the mustard and canola.
Maybe you can plant something like tomato, cantaloupe, or watermelon. I am sure the bees can benefit from these as well.
If your zone is short season then you have to find those for your area to grow. Some of these will come back the next year
if they reseed. So look for that also if that is what you like.
 

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I would have him plant Sainfoin.
I also agree. I know I talk a lot about sainfoin on this forum and I'm sure everyone's getting sick of it, but it's a fascinating plant. As long as your soil conditions are right (well-drained, high pH), I think it would fit your situation nicely. It can be planted in the spring and will produce forage this season. I know sainfoin grows best along the Rocky Mountains, especially Montana, so it should thrive in northern Idaho. Does well under dryland conditions too as long as you get at least 12-14 inches of annual precip.

Also, Sainfoin has been on my radar for a couple of years but I do not think it will work as a green manure.
It should, it's a nitrogen-fixing legume like the other popular green manure crops. I don't have any experience with anyone who uses it that way, but I know it's used in Europe (its native region) as green manure. The seed can be expensive, so it might not be practical to plant just to till under when there's other cheaper options. Most folks plant it for long term use. It can be used for livestock grazing since it's non-bloating or cut for hay with a nutrient value similar to alfalfa.
 

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Try to determine what part of your season the bees experience a dearth and plant something that will get them thru a tough time. Buckwheat works here in pa where we get a midsummer dearth often between the spring flow and the fall goldenrod/aster flow.
 

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My climate is very different from yours, but my bees liked Niger better than Borage. And it's prettier.
 
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