This fall we are planting a cover crop – bee pasture on various parts of out little farm. Between the pecan trees we are putting in a mix of oats and yellow sweet clover. The sweet clover will fix nitrogen for the young pecan trees and provide a strong nectar flow for our honeybees for most of next summer. Hopefully the sweet clover will out compete the grass and other weeds. The oats are there to help hold the ground until the clover gets established.
This is an example of a system I have talked about to bee clubs where you would plant trees as a nectar source for bees and undersow the trees with another nectar source getting double duty from the same piece of ground. In my case, the pecans are not a primary nectar source for bees but are an integral part of our nursery operation.
This is also an example of planting a “Savana” rather than a forest. Were these trees Lindens or Black Locust or even BeeBee Trees, the wide spacing would allow sunlight to the whole tree. That abundance of sunlight would promote flower production and more flowers means more nectar for the bees.
We are planting the sweet clover in fall because it is a biennial and must have a winter dormant period to induce flowering. The clover will sprout and the tiny plants will get their chill requirements and next summer grow 3′ to 6′ tall and provide millions of flowers for the neighborhood bees and other pollinators.
In our garden areas we will fallow part of our ground with an oat and crimson clover cover crop. This will bloom in spring and early summer. The two clovers will give us a blooming crop from late April through early August. Maybe we will get a crop or two of Buckwheat in before fall.
We will have a part of the nursery sown to White Dutch Clover in the pathways between the rows of plants.
This combination of cover crop – bee pasture is an example of getting double duty on your property. Soil improvement and a honey crop, its a win win solution