4 Steps to Improve Pollination & Your Harvests: Part 1

Are you ever disappointed with your harvests? Do you ever notice flowers and baby fruits forming only to drop, wither and die? If so, don’t despair! There ARE solutions to help improve pollination and ensure you have an abundant harvest.

Picking a handful of beans is rewarding, but a bucketful is better! Especially when you add up the money this saves you. Improve pollination & your harvests by working with nature to grow your food.

Picking a handful of beans is rewarding, but a bucketful is better! Especially when you add up the money this saves you.

 

You may be happy with your current edible yields, but it’s very likely you can improve your harvest even further. One of the secrets is about give-and-take relationships in your garden.

I work with nature to get the most from my Kitchen Garden. You may have a different climate and growing season, but the principles for a productive garden are basically the same wherever you live. I hope these tips will help boost your harvest.

 

Pollination Problems = Poor Harvests

Having trouble with fruit ‘setting’ on your favourite fruit/nut trees or edible crops? If so, you may wonder what the possible cause could be. Sometimes flowers or immature tiny fruits just drop off and die. It’s tragic really! I hate seeing this happen.

You need to FIND OUT WHY, before you can do something about it. Here are a few causes:

1. When fruit trees are in flower and are HIT BY FROST, this can have a dramatic impact on your future harvest. Frozen blooms are a disaster! You can’t do much about the weather except protecting your crops. At least this is one preventative solution.

2. Other PLANTS ARE JUST NOT MATURE OR STRONG ENOUGH to support more than a few fruit. This includes fruiting vegetables like squash, pumpkin, cucumber and eggplant and immature fruit trees that haven’t developed their root system. If heavy feeders like these fruit and vegetables are starved of nutrients, moisture or space, these factors can limit how big and healthy they grow … and how many ‘babies’ they can handle. Fruit drop is sometimes nature’s way of aborting what the plant can’t nourish and support.

3. The most common reason for poor fruit set though is a LACK OF POLLINATION.

 

It is estimated about one in every three mouthfuls of food we eat depends on pollination by honeybees. Good reason to do our part to sustain their health in our own gardens. Improve pollination & your harvests by working with nature.

It is estimated about one in every three mouthfuls of food we eat depends on pollination by honeybees. Good reason to do our part to sustain their health in our own gardens.

 

What is Pollination?

Ok, so if you were taking a nap in Biology classes, here’s a quick recap on how flower sex works.

 

“Pollination is the movement of male pollen to the female part of the flower (stigma), the first step in successful seed and fruit production by the plant. Self-pollination is when pollen is transferred from the anther to the stigma within a single plant. Cross-pollination is the transfer of pollen from one plant to the stigma of another plant. Once the plant has been pollinated, the male contribution fuses with the egg in the ovary, the process known as fertilization. After fertilization, the fruit and seeds develop and mature.”The University of Arizona

 

So with flowers, it’s not that different to humans: boy meets girl, they have a cuddle and baby fruit is born! It can get a bit more complicated with some plant varieties that need a little extra help. That’s where the bees and other pollinators come in and magically ‘match make’ between flowers. Nature helping nature!

 

A single bee colony can pollinate over 300 million flowers a day. Improve pollination & your harvests by working with nature to plant more flowers.

Bees play a vital role in our food chain – even in home gardens. No bees = empty plates.

 

Common Causes of Poor Pollination

There are many factors that can cause poor pollination including:

  • NO BEES OR POLLINATORS: Friendly pollinators like bees may not be visiting your garden. There are many problems plaguing world bee populations including chemical herbicides, viruses and varroa mites attacking hives, so numbers are down.
  • INSUFFICIENT PLANTS: Before planting your fruiting crops, find out if more than one plant is needed for cross-pollination to occur. You may only have one of a variety that requires a second plant to actually produce any fruit. Especially with apples! If you’re in an urban area, a neighbour may have a similar tree so this may not be an issue.
  • HIT AND MISS TIMING: Seasonal problems can also occur, so even if you have enough plants for cross-pollination, their flowers may not form or open at the same time. Sometimes, one flowers early, the other late but there’s no overlap. So it’s like two ships passing in the night – the magic can’t happen if the timing is out!

 

If you have limited space, even one large colourful container garden planted with flowers will act as a bee magnet. Improve pollination & your harvests by working with nature.

If you have limited space, even one large colourful container garden planted with flowers will act as a bee magnet.

 

  • POOR WEATHER DURING FLOWERING: Bees fly shorter distances when it’s rainy, windy or cold (10°C or 50°F). OK, so they are a little fussy! Do YOU like going outside for long periods in uncomfortable weather? Neither do bees! So bee a little understanding if your climate is less than bee-friendly. That’s why making your yard attractive to bees is so important.

OK, so that may help you with some possible causes for poor pollination. But what can you DO to improve pollination?

 

4 Steps to Improve Pollination & Your Harvests

 

There are four steps I use and recommend to help boost successful pollination of your edibles and an abundant kitchen garden. The next 3 steps are covered in the following article.

STEP 1: ELIMINATE ALL CHEMICALS

This may sound like a real ‘no-brainer’ if you are an organic gardener! But there are hidden dangers many gardeners are not aware of. If you want to improve pollination and your harvests, chemicals of all kinds are a major threat. You may be innocently bringing them into your garden without knowing. How?

Do you buy plants or seeds from nurseries, online or retail outlets? If so, do you check if they are organically grown from chemical-free seed or plant material? If you’re not sure, and you are trying to grow a pollinator-friendly, safe food garden like me, then you may want to start digging deeper.

Many retail suppliers sell ‘bee-friendly’ plants for the home garden. However, rarely are the plants labelled to indicate whether or not they have been grown with chemicals.

 

“Unless retail plants have a certified organic label, you may risk introducing a plant that has been grown with a systemic pesticide (neonicotinoid) that is toxic to bees.– Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener

 

Think about those appealing looking seedling punnets. It’s so tempting to take them home and start planting.

Think about those appealing looking seedling punnets. It’s so tempting to take them home and start planting.

 

Even many edible seedlings and seeds are treated with insecticides so please do your homework! Ask questions. Demand accountability from retailers.

 

Click below for helpful safe organic seed resources

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Unfortunately, pollinator friendly nursery plants sold to unsuspecting consumers carry neither a list of pesticides used, nor do they carry a warning that these pesticides could harm pollinators. Consumers may unwittingly be purchasing bee-attractive plants that have been pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides that may be harming or killing bees and other threatened pollinators essential to food production and ecosystem health.FOE US Report ‘Gardeners Beware: Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants Sold at Garden Centers Nationwide’ 2013

 

Think this is just happening in the US? Sadly not. Here in Australia and the UK we have the same problem. No doubt it’s happening wherever you live.

 

Click below for bee-friendly garden resources

Affiliate Links: Your support of this site is appreciated!

 

“Neonicotinoids bind irreversibly to critical receptors in the central nervous system of insects and cause irreversible effects. The damage is cumulative, and with every exposure more receptors are blocked. In fact, there may not be a safe level of exposure. Neonicotinoids account for worker bees neglecting to provide food for eggs and larvae, and for a breakdown of the bees’ navigational abilities. Bees, the number one insect pollinator on the planet, are dying at an alarming rate. Neonicotinoids are prone to leach from soils and contaminate ground and surface water. Not only are they water soluble and mobile in soil, they are also quite persistent in soil and water.” – Henk A. Tennekes

 

Pesticides and herbicides are lethal to bees and many other beneficial insects. A bee’s lifespan, navigation, memory and ability to find food is affected by even tiny levels of pesticides. The first goal to enticing pollinators to your garden is to create a healthy environment – for you and them. Try organic solutions first and work with nature to overcome pest and disease problems.

 

There's no need for chemicals when you encourage a balance of beneficial insects like ladybirds who dine out on aphids. Improve pollination & your harvests by working with nature.

There’s no need for chemicals when you encourage a balance of beneficial insects like ladybirds who dine out on aphids.

 

What else can you do to Improve Pollination & Your Harvests?

  1. Read insecticide product labels carefully. Look for acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam as active ingredients. Avoid using neonicotinoid insecticides altogether.
  2. If you really need a solution for pests or disease in your garden, buy or make organic products instead.
  3. Ideally, raise your own plants from certified organic seeds and propagate from known organic gardens or sources.
  4. Follow the tips on this website for creating a garden that supports a diversity of insects and work with nature to create balance and harmony.
  5. Watch this video for more tips:

 

 

In the next post 4 Steps to Improve Pollination & Your Harvests: Part 2 you’ll find the final 3 steps. I share illustrated instructions on how to hand pollinate your crops, bee-friendly flowers to grow and easy ways to make your garden a bee magnet. Plus a BONUS FREE printableHOW TO HAND POLLINATE FRUIT & VEGETABLES GUIDE‘.

 

Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. Please read my Disclosure Statement for more details.

 

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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2016. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.

Comments

comments

4 Comments

  1. Sharon March 15, 2015 at 9:10 am - Reply

    I didn’t see many bees until late in the season, and had to pollinate my zuchinni with a small paint brush. Only got a few fruit from them. I put up humming bird feeders but the lazy bees chased the birds away and drank their nectar rather than pollinating my garden!

    • Anne Gibson March 15, 2015 at 1:03 pm - Reply

      Sharon it’s a great idea to give nature a hand with your paint brushes. Sounds like you may need to implement a variety of strategies to attract the bees and boost your pollination. Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series of posts for some extra tips.

  2. Louise C March 15, 2015 at 3:21 am - Reply

    Hi Anne. Your Crafty Gardener link appears incorrect. Thanks for this wonderful page on pollination by bees and others. Yes, we are in danger and it is an essential task to talk about pesticides and other chemicals that distort nature. Love your site and please, keep up the good work!!

    • Anne Gibson March 15, 2015 at 6:33 am - Reply

      Thanks Louise for your feedback and pointing out the broken link. Crafty Gardener link all fixed now. It’s a great site for inspiring projects. Enjoy exploring!

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