NC State Extension Master Gardeners Help Our Community Feed a Bee

Monday, October 12, 2015
Feed a Bee Partner Blog Series - NC State Extension Master Gardeners

By Dr. Lise Jenkins, NC State Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Durham County, NC


This spring, the Bayer Bee Care Center gave our NC State Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program wildflower seeds —a lot of wildflower seeds. A box of 7,500 wildflower seed packets arrived at the Durham County Extension office, and then a 5-pound bag of bulk seeds arrived. We are happy to report that just a few weeks later, nearly all of those seeds have found homes throughout our community.


The first thing our Master Gardeners did was research the contents of the packets and create an information sheet that described the flowers and tips for their cultivation. Then we set off into our community to help gardeners, homeowners, school kids, and others learn about the role wildflowers play in helping to feed a bee.  


Over 1,500 people have walked into the Durham County Extension office and happily received a free packet of wildflower seeds. Our Master Gardeners have distributed seed packets at the Durham Garden Forum, the Museum of Life and Science, the RTI Health Fair, the Eno River Festival and the Brody Discover Garden at Duke Gardens. We’ve worked with Keep Durham Beautiful to distribute over 1,000 seed packets through their events and homeowner associations to get seeds into neighborhoods. We’ve also distributed seed packets at the South Durham Farmers Market and in classes our Master Gardeners teach around the county. The bulk seed are being used to create a wildflower border at the Briggs Avenue Community Garden, which Master Gardeners help manage. We have a bee hive at the garden, and our bees will put those wildflowers to good use.


How to Be Successful with Wildflowers
Fall is a good time to plant wildflowers.  Michelle Wallace, Durham's horticulture agent, described the steps to successfully planting the seeds.


"To be successful, it’s a really good idea to make sure that the spot you are choosing is going to get full sun,” Wallace said. “You also want to make sure you don’t have weeds. One of the problems people run into when they just broadcast seed, is when things start to come up, they don’t know if it’s what they planted or what nature planted.”


Wallace recommends starting with what’s called a “stale seed bed,” which incorporates some compost and allows gardeners to amend the soil the way they want. When doing so, it’s important to make sure any existing weed plants and weed seeds are killed off or removed. The first step is to encourage the weeds to grow and then using a chemical spray to kill the weeds before spreading wildflower seeds.


“That way,” Wallace said, “when you broadcast the seeds, you know that those are the flowers that you planted and not something that is distributed by the wind."


An alternative to planting the seeds directly outside is to start them indoors for transplanting later. Wallace explained, "Starting the seeds inside gives you a little bit more control.”


When the seeds or transplants are planted, make sure to keep them watered so their young root systems don't dry out. Once the weather starts to cool down, keeping roots moist will be less of an issue.


You can learn more about the assortment of wildflower seeds in the packets here.   


Want some seeds to feed a bee?  
We still have packets left! Contact the Durham Extension Master Gardeners at 919-560-0528 or visit our office at 721 Foster Street in Durham.


The Master Gardener Volunteer program in Durham County is happy to help people throughout our county feed a bee. To hear more about this, and other projects, listen to our radio show and podcast, Getting Dirty with Master Gardeners:





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