Category: Farming

10 Books on Garden Pollinators

10 Books on Garden Pollinators

The majority of flowering plants require an outside agent, usually an animal – insect, bird, or even small mammals – to pollinate them in order to reproduce. In fact, the prevailing theory is that flowers evolved to attract pollinators.

Approximately three-quarters of major food crops require pollination for reproduction. Insects – bees, moths, butterflies, and some beetles – make up the majority of insect pollinators, so farmers and gardeners try to make sure that a healthy population of them is available to perform this vital task. For many decades, farmers have come to depend upon the domestic western honey bee (Apis mellifera) as the primary pollinator. Every spring, professional apiarists make the rounds, heading to commercial farms and moving colonies of their bees to pollinate the crops.  

However, in recent years, a phenomenon known as “bee colony collapse disorder” – when all of the members of a colony except for the queen, immature bees and some nurse bees, disappear or die off – became a significant concern in North America and parts of Europe. While there are a number of theories about the cause or causes of this anomaly, such as a fungal infection or stress caused by the constant relocation of bee hives for commercial pollination, a definitive program to halt the disorder has not been established.

Fortunately for agriculturalists and gardeners (not to mention the world’s food supply), western domestic honey bees are not the only pollinators available. In fact, there are literally thousands of species of insects that perform that crucial task. This book list offers ten titles which describe these insects and offer information on how to attract them to gardens and fields, as well as farming and gardening practices to keep their populations healthy and thriving.

butterfly pollinator

1. Pollinator Friendly Gardening: Gardening for Bees, Butterflies and Other Pollinators by Rhonda Fleming Hayes

Pollinator Friendly Gardening covers everything from plant selection, habitat-building, and growing practices to attract and maintain a population of wide range of beneficial insects.

2. Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide, Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies by The Xerces Society

The Xerces Society, named after a now-extinct species of butterfly, is dedicated to the conservation of invertebrate species. Attracting Native Pollinators describes how to create insect-friendly structures and maintain proper habitat to help pollinators thrive.

3. Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants by Heather N. Holm

Pollinators of Native Plants provides a comprehensive look at the relationship between the native plants and native insects of the Midwest, Great Lakes region, the Northeast and southern Canada. Along with highly descriptive text there are numerous photographs that help illustrate various points and help readers identify pollinators. The book is organized by plant communities, providing guidance on the best practices and habitat designs to help conserve pollinator populations for both hobby and professional growers.

4. The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant Flower-Filled Yard That Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity by Kate Frey, Gretchen Lebuhn and Leslie Lindell

Written by both biologists and award-winning garden designers, The Bee-Friendly Garden describes how to plan flower gardens that will attract pollinators. Aside from the inherent good in promoting healthy pollinator populations, the guide also describes how their presence is beneficial to vegetable gardens and other flowering plants in the vicinity.

5. Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North American Bees by Joseph S. Wilson and Oliva J. Messinger Carril

More than just an identification guide to the more than 4,000 species of bees in North America, Bees in Your Backyard also includes pointers on how to attract bees by providing appropriate plants.

bee pollinator

6. The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson Rich

The Bee: A Natural History provides an overview of the more than 20,000 species of bees worldwide, covering everything from bee evolution to ecology to human-bee relations.

The Bee: A Natural History
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7. Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide by Paul H. Williams, Robbin W. Thorp, Leif L. Richardson and Sheila R. Colla

Bumble Bees of North America is a guide to the 46 species of bumble bees north of Mexico. The book includes descriptions of their ecology and habits as well as identification keys and population distribution maps.

8. A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees by Dave Goulson

A Sting in the Tale is a delightful first-person account of exploring the natural history and behavior of bumblebees by the founder of The Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees
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9. Butterfly Gardens: Luring Nature’s Loveliest Pollinators to Your Yard by Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Filled with detailed and practical information on species of North American butterflies, Butterfly Gardens also outlines which plants can attract these helpful and beautiful pollinators.

10. Gardening for Butterflies: How You Can Attract and Protect Beautiful, Beneficial Insects by the Xerces Society

Gardening for Butterflies was written by experts at the Xerces Society, providing information on the importance of butterflies to plant ecology. The book also describes the threats to butterfly species, offers suggestions on plant selection, and covers gardening practices that will encourage diverse and strong butterfly populations. The photographs not only aid in identification but also provide beautiful motivation for encouraging butterflies to make yards and gardens their homes.

Bonus Tip:

Gardeners and agriculturalists who are interested in attracting and maintaining populations of wild native pollinators may also want to contact their local agricultural extension agent for additional information. Each county in the United States has a resident agent, who can be found through the “Government Agencies” pages of the telephone book or online through the Internet.

Micro Farming for Profit

Micro Farming for Profit

It’s happening all around us. In city centers, suburban backyards and on quiet country lanes, the beginning of a revolution is taking shape. The agricultural revolution, for many, is growing into a profitable and life-changing experience. Micro farming for profit focuses on agribusiness using bio-intensive, ecologically sound growing methods, often paired with technology.

These 21st-century market gardeners are harnessing bio-intensive sustainable agriculture and strong ties to their community to produce high-quality products and substantially higher profit per acre. Instead of the popular view of struggling small farms on the edge of ruin, micro farmers can realistically enjoy incomes well into six figures.

In the process of working hard to profit from their micro farms, micro farmers often find themselves enjoying richer, healthier lives. A 21st-century version of market gardening is steadily putting high quality produce, eggs and more in the nation’s fresh markets and on the table in popular restaurants. These micro farms are also putting profits in their owner’s pockets with more diverse markets for their goods. Here is a closer look at some of these enterprising farmers, what they are doing, and why it matters to them and you.

Les Jardins de la Grelinette

Is it possible to produce a six-figure income from a 2.5-acre plot? Is micro farming for profit a realistic business model?

If you are Canadian farmers Jean-Martin Fortier and Maude-Hélène Desroches, the answer is yes! And they’ve got the numbers to prove it. For over a decade, Les Jardins de la Grelinette micro farm consistently produced returns of over $100,000 per year per acre while actively teaching others to do the same.  They, like many modern small farm owners, are passionate about sharing ecological human-scale food systems as a profitable alternative to destructive, large-scale industrial agriculture.

Les Jardins de la Grelinette

Sitting on a 10-acre lot in St-Armand, Quebec, Les Jardins de la Gelinette produces 40 varieties of herbs, fruits, and vegetables while only using a quarter of the available space. Their revenue comes from four main sources: farmer’s markets, subscriptions to weekly produce baskets during the summer, selling mixed salad greens (mesclun), and the sale of greenhouse plants. Recently, M. Fortier has begun offering The Market Gardener’s Masterclass, an online course for beginning and professional farmers who want to improve their efficiency and grow on a larger scale. This course was built out of the success of his book, The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming.

Devon Point Farm

Eliminating the middleman is one way micro farmers get such hefty returns for their crops. Along with direct sales to the consumer at local farmers markets, micro farmers often market directly to local restaurants and families through Community Supported Agriculture shares.

Through a Community Supported Agriculture (C.S.A.) shares program, share holders (members) buy a specific share of the micro farm’s harvest, eggs, and sustainably reared meat products. The purchase happens at the beginning of the growing season and sometimes, even earlier. Members share the risks and rewards: if it is a good season, members share the reward of reasonably priced, more nutritious food; if the weather is bad, or there are animal health problems the members receive less.

Subscription boxes are popular in summer and winter
Subscription boxes are popular in summer and winter.

In most cases, both the grower and the community benefit with better prices for quality food and better profits for the farmer. Members get the high-quality food they want most and the farmer is rewarded with a guaranteed market.

To see Community Supported Agriculture in action, take a trip to Woodstock, Connecticut. That’s where you’ll discover the Taylor family and Devon Point Farm. While not your typical micro farm, Devon Point Farm epitomizes values and techniques required for small farm success.

The Taylors produce diversified crops marketed directly to the consumer via C.S.A. shares and on their website. Grass-fed beef, pork and chicken are available for pickup on the farm. Their diversified approach helps the them offer quality products at reasonable prices without the extra cost incurred selling products in the traditional manner.

Growth Opportunity: Vertical Farming

Puns aside, just because farming has been practiced the same way for thousands of years doesn’t mean it lacks innovation. Recent technology and research provides new ways to grow more food in less space than ever before and in climates that don’t typically support gardening.

The Chinese recently announced they have grown plants on the dark side of the moon. How did they do that? Using the latest science and technology: LED grow lights and hydroponics. Grow lights have been used for decades, but the latest LED grow lights provide farmers the ability to fine tune the light spectrum and control the growth of their plants. Combined with nutrients provided by modern hydroponics, aquaponics, and aeroponics systems, plants can now be grown indoors and in smaller spaces year round.

Vertical farms use technology to make efficient use of space and plants
Vertical farms use technology to make efficient use of space and plants

We The Roots, Aerofarms, TruLeaf, and others have been developing a vertical farming method which stacks plants on shelves beneath strips of LED grow lights. Nutrients are then fed to the plants either through water or by spraying them with a mist. Vertical farming using LED grow lights allows farmers to increase the density of plants per square foot providing opportunities for even the smallest of micro farms.

LED and hydroponics technologies are also an opportunity for locations where gardening is impossible, for example northern communities in Canada. Typically, fresh produce in the north must be flown or shipped into remote communities at a hefty cost. With LED grow lights and aquaponics, it is now possible to build a viable garden indoors perhaps even in a shipping container. Fresh vegetables could then be harvested year-round at a reduced cost. The video below highlights how one company, Growcer, is doing just that. This is a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneur farmers in remote communities.

Producing large quantities of quality produce on tiny plots of land is not a new idea. Market gardening has a long history going back to medieval times and earlier. Now, a creative approach, technology, and dedication to sustainable agriculture are once again making producing good food an integral part of the community.