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Bee Friendly Pollinator Gardens Put Food on Oregon Tables / Public News Service

A single bee can help produce more than 125 pounds of food every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some Oregon groups are working to get more colorful plants into local gardens to attract these critical pollinators.

The nonprofit Huerto De La Familia manages organic gardens that provide space for more than 120 Latino families to plant fruits and vegetables. Esmeralda Manzo, organic-garden program assistant with the group, said they’re working on making a more bee-friendly environment at two gardens where they have beehives, Churchill and Gamebird. She explained that the flowers bring the bees for pollination.

“We also try to voice to our members, ‘Hey, if you plant different varieties of flowers in your garden, it’s going to benefit you, because the bees are going to come along, want to be around the flowers, and then pollinate your vegetables – like tomatoes and your squash that have the little flower that needs to be pollinated,'” she said.

Manzo said members volunteer at the Churchill location and it’s one of their biggest gardens, serving more than 50 families. She also noted that they partner with local organizations and farms that provide essential gardening supplies and improvements.

Manzo said Huerto De La Familia has been supporting Latino families for more than 20 years. They provide space at six garden locations throughout Lane County, with 15-by-20-foot plots for garden members.

“There’s a $15 yearly fee,” she said, “which then we provide the seeds, organic fertilizer, the tools if they need to use any tools, all there in each one of the gardens.”

In addition to garden plots, she said the Garden Program offers free classes in Spanish about medicinal and native plants, cover crops, how to improve soil quality and more.

Bees like purple, yellow, blue and white flowers, but Kristina Lefever, president of Pollinator Project Rogue Valley in southern Oregon, said she wants people to understand that a native pollinator garden goes beyond just beautiful blooms. In her project, she said, they focus on the overall ecosystem.

“What we’re wanting to do is help encourage people to see the importance of plants,” she said, “from bulbs to grasses, native grasses, to shrubs, the flowering plants that are called ‘forbs.’ Oregon Sunshine is one of the important native plants down here.”

Oregon Sunshine is a daisy-like perennial. Lefever said it serves so many insects and the seeds feed the birds. She added that flies and wasps are among the thousands of pollinator species. Bumblebees are major pollinators of tomatoes, cranberries and blueberries. Pollinators face lots of challenges, from urban development and the use of pesticides to the effects of climate change, and people who garden can help.

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