Most new gardeners assume that all garden plants need pollinators like bees to reproduce and bear fruit. Luckily, that’s not the case. There are plenty of self-pollinating plants you can grow in your garden that don’t bees.
If you’re interested in keeping a self-sufficient garden that’s less reliant on forces that you may not be able to control (like colony collapse), try planting self-pollinating plants and vegetables. All of these vegetables don’t need bees or any other pollinators to produce crop.
Popular Self-Pollinating Plants
Everyone’s favorite garden vegetable isn’t just delicious, it’s also just about the best self-pollinating vegetable you can grow. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of varieties to choose from. Grow a rainbow of tomatoes by planting them all: green, orange, red, purple, blue, brown, black and white.
Another popular member of the Solanaceae family, both hot and sweet peppers are must-have self-pollinating plants to grow in your garden. When growing peppers, remember that although peppers are self-pollinating, insect pollination can occur. And, if it does, since the gene for hotness is dominant, you can end up with hot bell peppers. (Personally, I think that’s pretty awesome, but not everyone appreciates spicy foods the way I do!)
Eggplants are known for being a little finicky and hard to grow. But, they make up for it by being rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that have been shown to be beneficial for cardiovascular and brain health.
These under-appreciated self-pollinating vegetables should be grown in every garden. Delicious, nutritious, fast-growing, and easy to grow, beets are the perfect vegetable for those hoping to keep a high-yield garden.
Peas and Beans
A staple in most gardens due to their low-maintenance and prolific ways, most legumes don’t need bees to pollinate. This includes bush beans, pole beans, lima beans and peas. Although it is possible for peas and beans to be pollinated by insects, since pollination actually occurs before the flower even opens, it’s extremely rare.
Lettuce and Other Leafy Greens
Lettuce is a popular garden staple because most varieties don’t require much light and grow very quickly. When planting, be sure to plant different varieties that produce flowers at the same time no closer than 20 feet from each other. This discourages cross pollination.
Spinach is another self-pollinating plant that doesn’t need bees. Instead, it uses the wind to self pollinate. Like other wind-pollinated vegetables, you can help it by giving it a gentle shake or fanning to distribute pollen.
Regularly appearing on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of most-pesticide-laden foods (along with tomatoes, peppers and spinach), celery is a good self-pollinating plant to grow. Although it is a bit of a water and nutrient hog, you can regrow celery from its leftovers, which is a nice bonus.
Onions and Leeks
Cooking without onions is just about impossible, plus herbs in the Allium genus are known to be plants that repel insects such as ants and aphids.
How Do Self-Pollinating Vegetables Work?
Understanding what pollination is can help you better understand what your garden vegetables need to produce fruit. So, here’s the down-and-dirty about the birds-and-bees of the plant world:
- Plants develop seeds (the genetic materials they use to reproduce) through pollination. Pollination is a process that involves transferring the plant’s pollen from the stamen (the male flower part that produces pollen) to the pistil (the female flower part where pollen germinates). No plant can produce fruit without pollen.
- Self-pollinating plants are known to have “perfect” or “complete” flowers because each of their flowers contains both the male and the female parts. Both parts are necessary for fertilization and fruit production, but the plants don’t need pollinators to get their pollen from the stamen to the pistil.
- Vegetables that have separate male and female flowers (like squash) are known as “incomplete.” They need pollinators to help spread their pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers to reproduce.
- Pollinators can be bees, butterflies, other insects, birds, wind and even people.
- Plants that do not self-pollinate have often evolved to contain two other flower parts: the sepals and petals. Some of these are quite sophisticated. For instance, the bee orchid has petals that make it look just like a particular species of bee is on the flower. It also produces a scent that mimics the scent of the female bee of that species, further enticing the males to come over for a look.
- Even self-pollinated vegetables and plants can benefit from pollinators because pollinators can still increase a self-pollinating plant’s chances of pollinating.
For more in-depth gardening tips and resources, check out the Gardening Guides page.