The bumblebees are back to help pollinate our gardens. (Mary Lowther photo)

The bumblebees are back to help pollinate our gardens. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Cover crops feed the soil and the bees

Until I read Gojmerac’s book on bees, I hadn’t realized the value of allowing cover crops to flower

By Mary Lowther

Until I read Gojmerac’s book on bees, I hadn’t realized the value of allowing cover crops to flower before digging them under. Cover crops are sown to add nutrients to the soil and prevent the leaching and erosion of what’s already there. They also clean the soil of possible pathogens that may harm food crops. I use crimson clover and buckwheat during the summer and winter rye and fava beans in the fall.

To get the most nourishment from these crops, they should be dug under or composted when they’re still green and succulent. Once they start setting seed they become tough and woody as nutrients move from roots to leaves to seed. Worried that my cover crop would go to seed before I got around to pulling it off, I’ve usually dug it under before it even flowered.

Gojmerac pointed out that before the advent of commercial fertilizers, farmers fertilized their land by growing cover crops like sweet clover. “In fact,” he says, “Clovers contribute more to honey production in North America than any other group of plants.” That was in 1978. With rising costs of commercial fertilizers, perhaps clover will once again attain its useful status on commercial farms. Organic farmers already do this.

But I’ve noticed that bees indiscriminately inhabit whatever’s flowering at the time, so if I let all my cover crops flower, they should help feed the bees. I’ll just have to be vigilant and dig them in once the bees have had at them and before they go to seed. Given the predicted collapse of bee populations on the Island, our garden oases may just help prevent this. I love two-fors: cover crops can feed the soil and bees at the same time. It’s Gestalt.

Always on the lookout to save seeds, I’m planning on sowing a few in a separate bed and letting them set seed. Maybe in the flower bed. Why not?

Here’s another recipe from mom’s wartime recipe book, using any kind of tinned fish:

Fish and Potato Mustard

Choose a tin of fish in any kind of sauce or liquid, but preferably not tomato. Dice and cook enough potatoes to have a generous helping for each person. Mix all the sauce or liquid contained in the tin with enough mustard to give it a strong flavour. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them. Pour the mustard sauce over them and toss to blend well. Serve the potatoes hot with the fish arranged on them.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Columngardening

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s first case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Providence Health Care has teamed up with partners, including Island Health, to launch the first remote cochlear implant (CI) mapping program for adults in British Columbia. Duncan’s Alan Holt was one of the first to test it out. (Submitted)
Remote cochlear clinic offers shorter commute for patients like Duncan’s Alan Holt

Duncan man one of the first to test virtual mapping program

Larry Fiege, right, from Fiege’s Farm shows a rapt audience the old-fashioned way to tap a Bigleaf Maple during the Maple Syrup Festival at the BC Forest Discovery Centre Feb. 1 and 2, 2020. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)
Maple Syrup Festival in Duncan cancelled

The annual syrup festival is a popular event at the BC Forest Discovery Centre

The Lake Cowichan Legion received federal funding in December, 2020 to help the organization weather the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan Legion receives federal COVID-19 assistance funding

Can be used for expenses such as insurance, utilities, rent or mortgages, property taxes, and wages.

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Most Read