Which Edibles Need Bees to Produce?

Or other pollinators for that matter?

The thing is, not all edible crops need to be pollinated by bugs.

Some don’t need bees or other pollinators at all; others benefit from them but can still produce even if they are not around.

As this bean flower opened, it transferred the male's pollen to the female part of the flower. There are only a few plants that self-pollinate.

Most legumes, like this bean flower, will pollinate themselves.

Here’s a list of what’s what:

We need pollinators all the time:
• Cucumbers
• Melons and watermelons
• Berries
• Tree fruits

Melons and cucumbers can be hand-pollinated, but it is a somewhat cumbersome task. Or as one reader joked, cucumbersome.

We can be pollinated with human help:
• Squashes, both winter and summer types, by hand
• Tomatoes, by air movement
• Eggplant, by air movement
• Peppers, both Hot and Sweet, by air movement

Squashes, with their rather large male and female flowers, are easy enough to hand pollinate. Just remember to get as much pollen on the female plant as you can. The more there is, the better the chances the fruit will develop well.

Wind pollinated veggies, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are fertilized by the beating of bees’ and other insects’ wings. You can likewise give the plants a little shake, or use a battery operated toothbrush or tuning fork touched to the stems to move the pollen.

You can actually seen the pollen as it falls.

We do not need pollinators to produce:
• All leafy greens
• Brassicas, inc. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts and kohlrabi
• Below ground root veggies and tubers such as carrots, parsnips, salsify, potatoes, sweet potatoes, horseradish
• Ground level root veggies such as beets, turnips, rutabagas
• Most legumes including peas and beans
• Corn, like other wind pollinated veggies, giving them a little shake helps distribute the pollen.
• Herbs
• Celery
• Onions and leeks

These veggies will all grow by themselves when planted from seed.

Exceptions: There are a number of hybrids, some cucumbers and tomatoes for example, that are parthenocarpic. These varieties do not need to be pollinated and will not produce a viable see either.
They are good for growing in greenhouses or where the availability of pollinators is limited.

To attract bees to your crops that need them, plant flowers and herbs they love. The closer they are to the veggies that need the help, the better your chances of pollination.

Sunflowers are a particular favorite, and you can save and roast the seeds as well.

We see that as a beautiful win-win.

Please Note: When you pollinate a veggie by hand, this is known as Hand Pollination, not Self Pollination. These terms often get confused.

Most peas and beans self-pollinate as the flowers open, transferring the pollen as needed.

Other veggies, like tomatoes, are self-fertile, meaning they have both male and female parts on the same flower. It doesn’t mean they can transfer that pollen like a pea will. Bees help, and you can too.


February 13, 2016 · gj · 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: All About Seeds, How to Grow

2 Responses

  1. Mike the Gardener - February 17, 2016

    Excellent list GJ.

    On a side note, I love having an abundance of bees in my garden. It looks like a sign of a healthy environment for them.

  2. gj - February 19, 2016

    That’s an excellent sign!

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