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Dear Editor,

As honeybee numbers are dwindling, are bumblebees good for pollinating the vegetable garden? We live in lower Alabama, and a few years ago we planted a fast-growing Royal Empress Paulownia tree. The past three years we get more and more bumblebees visiting the tree every spring … and I mean many, many bumblebees. Each year we get more, and this year was almost scary. There were so many hummingbirds too. We don’t know where they come from or where they go after the tree flowers, but I do wonder if the bumblebee is a good pollinator.

 

Thanks,

DH

 

Dear DH,

Yes, your bumblebees ARE good pollinators! There are many vegetable and fruit plants where the pollen is down deeper, and the honeybee’s proboscis (a long, slender, hairy tongue that acts as a straw to bring food and water to the mouth) is not as long as a bumblebee’s. The pollen is further down in the flower than his proboscis can reach. That’s where your bumblebees come in. They can reach the pollen-containing interiors of deep flowering fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries. In addition, your hummingbirds are pollinators as well, especially of red flowering plants.

We got interested in honeybees because my husband wanted blueberries and he wanted pollinators to go along with them. After planting 105 blueberry bushes and then taking a beekeeping course at Mississippi State University, he realized that bees weren’t going to help him at all with his blueberries! However, we were also interested in the conservation aspect of beekeeping, so we put in a few hives anyway. I have to say that the bumblebees are more apparent around our fruits and vegetables than the honeybees. However, a good system incorporates all aspects of beneficial birds and insects, so we’ll continue to encourage all that we can.

The Editor

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Dear Editor,

How do I get rid of horsetail in my garden? We rototill and keep picking them all summer. We laid a fabric down and then the dirt. We don’t use pesticides. Any help?

RE—

 

Dear RE—

I had never heard of horsetail until your email. However, I did some research and the best information that I have come up with comes from Swanson’s Nursery and Garden Center. They cite an April 2004 article by Carol Hall in Gardens West and say it contains the best advice they’ve found on this subject. You can read the entire article at https://www.swansonsnursery.com/PDF/1_GENERAL/Horsetails.pdf but I’ll summarize it here:

What NOT to Do:

1)      Pull stems – new plants appear at each new scar on the root

2)      Dig out roots – digging invigorates them and any tiny piece left will resprout

3)      Cover with plastic – horsetail thrives in warm, dank, oxygen-starved conditions

4)      Cover with mulch – see above

5)      Spray with weed killers – this plant is impervious to all but the most toxic chemicals

What TO Do:

Horsetail cannot thrive in anything but the poorest of soil conditions. Therefore, to get rid of it, you must improve drainage, raise the pH, and increase your soil’s fertility. This will take time. Changing the soil conditions will actually cause the plant to disappear gradually all by itself.

Tackle poor drainage. Make sure water can drain away quickly.  Next, remove any plastic, fabric or mulch from the area and apply dolomite lime. Do not fertilize at this time since fertilizer and lime tend to cancel each other out. Water the lime in and wait about two weeks before applying any fertilizer.

Apply compost or aged manure about 2 inches thick to your garden area. It takes effort, diligence and patience to achieve a horsetail-free garden. Within one year, you should see improvement. It may be five years before you’re completely free of the invasive plants.

Again, take the time to go to the above link and print out the entire article.

The Editor

 

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