Cover crops, green manures, catch crops and pollinator mixes...these are the buzz words that are being used more and more everyday by growers and small farmers. Even in home gardens the pollinators are becoming more and more important to ensure that they are been catered for in your space to ensure fruit and vegetables are continuing to be produced.
Pollination being the process of transferring the pollen, that forms on the male part of the flower, the stamen, to another flower’s female structure, the stigma, to ensure diversity. This happens when the pollen gets stuck on the pollinator's legs or body while it is looking for nectar - nectar being especially important for bees because it’s the main ingredient they need to make honey. Bees specifically move around in the centre of the flowers, where most of the nectar is kept, however in so doing they also touch the structures that create the pollen as well as the females’ structures which receive the pollen.
The colour of the flowers and petals also attract pollinators - bees prefer blue, yellow, white and purple flowers, while butterflies and birds prefer red and purple flowers.
It is very important for the small farmer to create his own pollinator habitat to ensure that his crop will have the best chance for pollination. There are pollinators that will use the flowers to back up their natural diet, but they live mostly off other insects and and can provide a natural control of your pests on your crops. Obviously the areas that you choose for pollinators must be pesticide free. Unfortunately, bees in South Africa are surviving under stressed conditions because so many natural habitats are being demolished for new developments, so it does make my heart warm to see some areas that are still bee friendly.
Thankfully, there are some products that have been specifically created with pollinators in mind! The pollinator mix provides a mixed selection, that will satisfy your pollinator’s flowering needs! The mix comes in different pack sizes to meet your demands and can be easily scattered on a well-prepared bed or piece of land that has well drained soil and must get watered each day for the seeds to germinate. After germination it need only be watered in the mornings, if possible, to save water, for it to then flourish and bring in those wonderful pollinators! The mixes are made up to give an extended flowering period and so that the seeds will then sow themselves, however it will be annual and will not be invasive to your future plans.
A general summer crop cover, is also an excellent idea to protect the soil from the harsh conditions of the environment. The crop cover contains fast growing plants that can be ploughed or worked into your soil later as compost in order to improve your soils quality. Carbon dioxide can thus also be taken into the soil through the crop and thus removed from the air, which with all the pollutants in our atmosphere, it's so important to keep clear!
There are two different types of cover crops; the first is green manures and the second is catch crops. Green manures can be ploughed back into the soil to improve the quality of the soil and catch crops are grown to capture the nutrients that would normally be leached away.
Cover crops are also used for weed control and is lovely natural way of keeping weeds suppressed without the use of chemicals. Also, the cover crop will bring more insects and animal species to your farm which will also help with pest control and creating a successful biosystem!
These are such important tools that one needs to look at to see how best it will suit your own unique situation.
So, please consider being pollinator friendly, bee-wise and scatter those seeds!
About the Author
Adele Siemssen is the Seeds for Africa Operations supervisor. Adele is a qualified horticulturist with 30 years of hands on experience and loves pets and assisting customers to make their garden dreams come true!