We sometimes fail to recognize that nature plays a longer game with native plants than is our habit of thinking. It’s time now to prepare for next year’s fall wildflowers to provide bees and other pollinators with an extra boost of nutrition going into the winter of 2015-2016 and beyond. We have an opportunity to seize this fall.

Since weather forecasters are becoming more confident of an El Nino pattern this winter, increased winter moisture in New Mexico will likely fuel another year of favorable conditions for fall blooming wildflowers. The time to plant these is NOW – following nature’s pattern of over-wintering seeds, allowing weather conditions to create the bio-chemical conditions that result in germination.

AND now is also a great time to plant bee friendly perennials – trees and shrubs. Although they will need some moisture support over the winter – about every two weeks in the absence of snow or rain – fall-planted perennials have the advantage of cooler weather to settle in and establish roots before they must cope with heat. Mulch with a bag or two of natural material (avoid colored or rubber mulches for best results.) Do support with additional moisture though at least 2-3 more growing seasons – longer if non-native. The gardener’s mantra with perennials is “Creep, creep, leap!” – don’t expect much growth until the 3rd year.

David Dreesen and Tess Grasswitz of the NRCS Los Lunas Plant Materials Center have published a list of pollinator friendly plants they have studied for New Mexico. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/nmpmctn11803.pdf

The list includes annual and perennial wildflowers and some common garden plants and herbs you might grow for cutting or the kitchen.

For pollinator friendly trees visit http://www.treenm.com/education/trees-for-bees/

Please share your favorite nurseries for bee-friendly trees, shrubs and trees. Some of those familiar to me are Plants of the Southwest, Jericho, Alameda Greenhouse, Payne’s Nurseries, and High Country Gardens. Although they are in Texas, Native American Seed (www.seedsource.com) offers a Bee Friendly Mix, Apache Plateau Mix and Western Rangeland Grass Mix (Yes, bees will go to grasses for pollen!) that would all be appropriate for the plains of Southeastern New Mexico.

In the end, the best thing for our bees is high biodiversity. Too much of any one plant limits available bloom period and risks devastating insect problems. A varied plant community brings different plant “skills” to your garden that support the whole.

Christina Allday-Bondy is Chair of Outreach, Advocacy and Education of the New Mexico Beekeepers Association. She had the good fortune to work for the National Wildflower Research Center during Ladybird Johnson's active years.

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