News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Bee wise – local Master Gardeners support pollinators

Linn County Communications Officer

Cocoon Care workshops taught by Linn County Master Gardener Volunteers can triple the number of beneficial mason bees by reducing pests and diseases. A workshop participant in 2019 shows off a collection of healthy mason bee cocoons.
Photo courtesy Elizabeth Record

Elizabeth Records loves all things gardening, both at home and as the Master Garden program educator through OSU Extension in Linn and Benton counties.

And as someone who likes to get her hands in the dirt, she knows the importance of pollinators – specifically bees – for gardens, farm and orchard crops.

Records said that the Linn County Master Gardener Association Pollinator Project focuses on stewarding mason bees and even sponsors a popular BEEvent Pollinator Conference each February at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center.

Records said this year’s program was on Zoom, with more than 260 people participating.

Mason bees are especially important to pollination because they are active in early spring, before most other pollinators. Pollen sticks to the fuzzy bodies of mason bees and fertilizes about 95 percent of the flowers they visit. 

Mid-valley residents interested in setting up their own bee hives can easily do so since starter kits can be purchased at the OSU Extension-Linn County office in Tangent. Bee houses are as little as $35, along with tubes, cleaning tools and even Blue Orchard Mason Bee cocoons.

Records said the pollinator conference is in its eighth year. The plan is to hold the 2023 conference in-person.

Records said 37 people are currently training to become Master Gardeners, 25 in Benton County and 12 from Linn County. They spend one hour per week in an online class which they can view within their own time framework and then gather together weekly for hands-on lessons.

Areas of study include: botany essentials, soil management, plant nutrition, pest identification and control, diagnosis of plant problems, growing vegetables, sustainable landscape design, fruit trees and pollinators.

Master Gardeners are busy at the demonstration garden at the Linn and Benton county fairgrounds.

Records said they are also active at the Willamette Community Garden in Albany. All-organic garden plots — 5-feet 10-feet can be rented for just $20 and the garden also provides food to local food banks. Call the city of Albany at 541-917-7777.

Last year, 52 Master Gardeners worked with four school and community gardens, donated 1,530 pounds of produce and helped 8,830 people.

Records said the annual Through the Garden Gate tour of gardens is coming up June 18 after a two-year hiatus.

“At people’s request, there will be more smaller gardens included,” Records said.

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