Ask Burton: Q: I planted a vegetable garden last year, but certain crops didn’t produce well. I think it’s because the bees didn’t come since I had great looking squash plants that flowered, but just never made worth mentioning. How can I get the bees to visit around my vegetable garden?

A: There’s more than one thing to look at for an answer. First of all, we commonly have to spray squash to keep the squash bugs from destroying them. Try switching to a spinosad-based insecticide instead of Sevin or a synthetic pyrethroid. Also, change the time of day you spray! Spray squash plants at early dawn or dusk, when the bees aren’t particularly active. This gives these sprays time to dry, and you don’t clip as many bees as spraying at ten or eleven in the morning will do.

Secondly, your garden may not have enough flowers growing in it to entice bees. Most of us garden in raised beds, and use every square inch for maximum crop production. We don’t plant flowers that are “just for pretty” in our gardens, but these flowers so serve a purpose….they attract the bees to pollinate! I plant alyssum as one of my favorite bee attractors, because we see firsthand at the nursery how much the bees love alyssum. Any flowering plant can help, and I lean heavily toward alyssum, salvias, and daisies in my garden. Flowers make your veggie garden pretty, but they also make it more productive, so go ahead and “waste” space planting flowers to attract the bees you so desire.

Love your bees, folks. There are so many delicious things we wouldn’t be eating without their help!

Burton specializes in diagnosing and solving plant problems. If you have a question for Burton, please email him at and include photos showing the problem.