Food for community - newbie in New England

I have found my haskap are a big early pollinator food source. They flower as early as the daffodils and are generally covered in bumblebee queens.

Lavender is a herb that not only has multiple uses but also draws a ton of the pollinators. We do day lilies, yarrow, bee balms, roses, borage, sages , thyme and oregano. All have long flowering periods and are edible. ( bees love the shrub roses especially and they flower almost constantly.)

We also get lots of bee action on the asparagus in flower. They seem very into the pollen and will cover it. It does take a while to establish, but very low work once in.
Even our fall raspberries help. They keep flowering until hard frost so the bumbles will keep at them as long as it’s warm enough to fly.


I hear you on the “only.” I grew up on 3 acres carved off the 140+ acre family farm, but spent most of my adult life so far renting. I now have a little more than 1/4 acre. Depending on which lens I’m looking at it from on a given day, it’s either not nearly enough to do what I want, or way too much for me to manage.


Oh, got it - I don’t know why I was thinking of foxes, rather than parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and birds.

I find parasitic wasps SO disturbing, but I appreciate the role they take in keeping infestations alive. In reading one of my books, it mentioned that aphids are born pregnant, and gives birth 10 days after being born themselves. That blew my mind. (Apparently fig-pollinating wasps are also born pregnant, but a different mechanism) I find that whole section of the world very distressing.

I’ve been hesitant to put up a bee hotel given the chance for mold, and by gathering a bunch of bugs together, actually drawing parasitic wasps to lay larvae in the baby Mason bees. I know there are special paper straws one can use instead for bug health, but that hasn’t been high on my garden to-do list. I read that the vast majority of native bees live in the ground, so I’ve been planning on transitioning my lawn to no-mow.

Actually the solitary bees find homes in woodpecker holes etc…knots in trees or wherever. We have cut down most of the trees to have neighborhoods and cities so they have less places to call home.

In every situation the wolf exists to stop the spread of man…and man exists to stop the spread of wolves.

i choose to embrace nature and let them do their thing… some people just spray and hope for the best… no right way, no wrong way.

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Thanks for the list! I’ve been longing for a software that would show when things bloom, and how they would look together. That’s the part my mind - and spreadsheets - isn’t getting to.

I hadn’t thought of carrot except for eating. Tell me more! @jcguarneri

Mint I’ve been worried about planting. I bought Downy Wood Mint for its less invasive nature, but worried about my neighbors and didn’t plant it.

I have anise hyssop planted, and the bees LOVED it last year. I’m definitely going to add some more of them! Also bee balm and echinacea, dwarf cosmos, milkweed, Black cohosh (in the woods), Joe Pye weed.

I just planted Hellebores in the one day of thaw before the big snow. It’s possible - not likely but possible - they might actually come up this year. I read that some bees are actually out and about in the winter, and Lenten Rose is one of the only blooming sources of food for them.

I sowed Northeast pollinator wildflower mixes all over, and shade-specific native flower mixes in the woods. There are more seeds I’m going to sow in spring, can’t wait. There are asters in several of the wildflower mixes, but I hadn’t really twigged to them as especially important, so thank you.

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When we moved into our place in 2016,there were the standard old person low maintenance shrubs and bulb flowers all over the place. My wife is a wildflower nerd and works for forestry as an educator, so she took the reigns on converting some of our garden beds to native pollinator gardens.

This thread has a list of many of the choices we made.

I also planted a male pussy willow (Salix discolor) for early blooms. It is one of the first natives to wake up to help the bees and you can easily train in as a large shrub. Dead easy to root from cuttings, literally cut a branch and stick it in the ground, preferably in the spring or fall. I could take some cuttings if you are interested, I already pruned ours like crazy a couple weeks ago but I could find a branch to trim.
Locust is another great pollen source, a tough tree, and can be used for very slow rotting fence posts or other garden projects if you coppice it regularly.

Honeyberries are super early bloomers too, possibly TOO early for my native pollinators to wake up. I haven’t tested that theory yet but have a bunch ordered.

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Thank you for the resources!

Well you lucked out!!

And yes please on the cuttings of pussywillow. Thanks @disc4tw!

Appreciate the link to the thread. I’m super excited for spring…

I’m also going to see how it works to start seeds in my indoor Click N Grow, and then plant outside.

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Excellent advice, thank you.

Hellebore seeds don’t do well if you let them get dry … they come up best in late fall right where they fell under the mama plant in May.

But, maybe you’ll get a few. Even so, it takes 3 years for a first bloom.

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For us, I planted borage, groundcherries and dill once, 6+ years ago and have never needed to actively plant any of them again.
All self seed and I just thin/move as I want. The dill even comes up between the paving stones! ( I’ll do full-plant harvesting on the small ones, when we want some, and the others get left since we typically get at least a few swallowtail caterpillars on them.)


Ha didn’t know that! Well then definitely no flowers this spring. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

So… how does one buy hellebore if the seeds shouldn’t get dry? I got mine by mail.

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Good question. It’s a relatively expensive plant, often costing $10 or more at the wholesale level before the big store/garden center gets it and puts it out on the shelf. (Fresh seeds stored with a slightly damp tissue or something solves the dry seed issue for a few months).

But, if it takes 3 years of care to flower, a $20 plant is still a cheap price.

The seeds…maybe get to know friends…neighbors…garden club members? And get seeds (or baby plants) for free, or for swaps?
Or…buy the dry seed but realizing the germination rate will be poor.

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Thanks that’s helpful. I appreciate the help! I saw Hellebore plants recently, with flowers, maybe I’ll jump start that way.

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It sounds like you’ll be pretty set on pollinator plants, or at least have a good start, if all your seeds take! I’ll be starting some more seeds this spring to address a gap in June that I noticed. I mention this because it’s nice to remember you don’t have to get it perfect from the beginning. As things grow, pay attention. You’ll see some things that aren’t working in certain spots or at all, or notice gaps in bloom time that don’t match up with what you read. Then you can move things around, add new plants, or remove things that aren’t working. It’s a process, and even a “wild” planting will require some maintenance and editing if you want it to stay a certain way.

As for carrots, I mean the carrot family more broadly. This includes parsley, yarrow, dill, fennel, Golden Alexanders, and a bunch of other things. The broad umbels of small flowers are great nectar sources for beneficial wasps, flies, and ladybugs. This can help sustain a population when there aren’t a lot of pests to eat.

Regarding mints and invasiveness, there is a whole range of how aggressive things in the mint family are. For example, sage will just stay put as a small to medium shrub, thyme will creep out slowly, and spearmint/peppermint will get pretty rambunctious. Anise hyssop stays put, but will self-sow readily. Bee balms will definitely spread, but slightly less than spearmint/peppermint. Anything in that family is a great nectar source for bees and wasps, and many of them are hummingbird favorites.

I do think the aggressiveness of mint is way overstated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely an aggressive plant, but it’s not going to take over a woodland or crowd out a dense planting. It definitely won’t invade a frequently mown lawn. It’s good at moving into bare spaces and sometimes getting entwined with other plants. I think mint gets its reputation because it’s agressive relative to expectations. Most people want a small patch of mint, but it doesn’t stay the size of the basil plant they put it next to, and people freak out because it’s “taking over.” Now, if you plant it with the expectation it’s going to be a ground cover, it’s just about right. Vinca/periwinkle is way more aggressive in my experience, and people don’t hesitate to plant that! They expect it to take over a large area quickly, so it seems normal. If you want to keep mint in a small area, it’s relatively easy to contain. Just plant it in a large pot and sink it in the ground, or install a rhizome barrier. Or you can plant it in a relatively isolated location, such as surrounded by turf and/or pavement. Or you can even just dig up the out of bounds plants every couple of years.


That’s lovely thank you.

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That’s a really helpful explanation, thank you.

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I’m ordering for spring…

Pawpaws because of course:

  • KSU Atwood, KSU Benson, Allegheny, Tallahatchie

Grafted fruit trees

  • Apple combo

  • Cherry combo (I’m not holding my breath on this one’s survival - cherries seem tricky)

I pre-ordered the berry bushes:

  • Blueberries (Chandler, Bluecrop)

  • Honeyberries (Aurora, honey bee, indigo treat, boreal beauty, Solo Yezberry, Strawberry sensation)

  • Saskatoon

  • Goumi berries

I’m going to try out some perennial Andean tubers, because why not:

  • Yacon (described as a watermelon or Granny Smith apple taste, eaten raw as a fruit)

  • Mashua (described as a radishy flavor that becomes mild when cooked)


That’s a great list!! Good luck.