Pollinator Autumn

Fall in New Mexico is quite possibly the most beautiful season to be found anywhere in the world.  But it’s also the last hurrah for our pollinators, who have a brief time left to get a winter’s worth of provisions stored. I’ve been taking note of the plants that will help them with this last push for survival.

Our native chamisa, or rabbitbrush, is first and foremost. It’s in full bloom in late September and is mobbed with bees whenever the sun touches it, perhaps because in sunlight it exudes a warm heathery-polleny fragrance. Interestingly, I find honeybees working it in the early evening, hours after their forays usually stop. It self-seeds readily and gets big, so steps have to be taken to keep it under control, but find a neglected corner where it can ramp away into a great bush and it will literally hum with bees in autumn.

If you cut your hollyhocks back after their first bloom, they bloom again in late September and are greatly appreciated by bees. In the dry high desert they are blessedly free of the diseases that can make them unsightly in the eastern US, and they are so robustly healthy that they can become nuisances.

Morning glories bloom until the frosts start, and although the bees pay little attention to them earlier in the season, they are very popular in September and October.

Sunflowers bloom early in our hot climate, but some always germinate late, in May or June. I make sure to let a few of these stragglers grow up, because they bloom in early Zoctober and seem especially attractive to bumblebees.

Urban homesteading is not just about growing your own food. It’s about creating viable ecological oases in urban areas. Eating some of the bounty is your privilege, but you have a billion partners in your enterprise, including your own animals, birds, toads, worms, pollinators of all kinds, fungi, and the huge array of microbes without which plants and soil, and therefore us, could not survive. The end of a growing season is a good time to stop and honor them all.

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