Thursday, January 24, 2013
Planning a Bee Garden
Whether you keep your own bee hives or count on wild bees to pollinate your homestead plants, most people have a certain respect for the job of a bee. As gardeners, we rely on bees to pollinate our crops and often benefit from the surplus of their honey production. More than 100 food crops rely on bees to pollinate their flowers, and the recent decline in honeybee populations means less of those crops are getting pollinated. While honeybees are incredibly important, they aren't the only ones out there helping to pollinate, around the world there are about 20,000 species of bees, many operating in colonies and still others operating individually.
You can help encourage bee populations by becoming a beekeeper, buying local honey, reducing pesticide use, or simply creating a habitat that encourages and strengthens bee populations. A well planned bee garden can include edibles and can also become an attractive part of your yard. If you are concerned about getting stung by bees, remember that bees sting as a defensive measure, and keep in mind the statement 'live and let live.'
Last year we started to build a bee garden around our hive, as a way to encourage pollination, create a barrier around the hive, and also add some color to that side of the yard. Our bee garden also attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects to our yard. Here are a few thoughts to consider in planning your bee garden.
Select a Site
The ideal location for a bee garden is somewhere that provides some shelter and protection from the elements. If you can help it, don't place your garden in the middle of a windy field. Make sure that the plants or other elements in the garden provide wind barriers. This also means that you don't need to change everything since bees love small spots to hide like logs and under rocks. If you use a lot of mulch, consider keeping some areas mulch-free to encourage ground dwelling bees.
Evidence shows that not only are bees attracted to certain types of flowers, but they are attracted to a garden that has a variety of flowers. Select a number of different types of flowers with a variety of colors, shapes, size, and blooming time, and you are guaranteed to attract bees to your garden. You can check local resources for plants that grow in your area, or try looking at this list for some ideas of plants to select.
Don't forget to include edible plants in your garden so you can get some of the benefit from increased pollination. Herbs are especially good choices when looking for plants that are likely to attract bees.
Keeping a small, shallow water source in your garden is an added bonus for attracting bees. This can be as simple as a birds bath or as elaborate as a small pond. If you are adding water with bees in mind, keep it shallow or add pebbles to keep the bees from drowning.
Keep it Natural
Using pesticides on a garden intended to attract bees is simply contradictory. Don't lure bees to your garden simply to poison them! Even small doses of pesticides can harm a bee and travel back to the hive to harm the whole colony. Instead of using pesticides in your bee garden, try coping with pests as needed using less poison and better gardening.
Don't overlook the Weeds
When you're planning a garden, it's easy to overlook the benefit of weeds. Native weeds are often a favorite for native bees, so don't overlook this valuable resource growing right in your yard. Even if you don't want to leave weeds in your garden, consider letting them grow along the edge of the woods or in other areas around your yard. Those dandelions growing in your yard are one of the bees favorite plants. In our not so tidy yard, we usually let the dandelions bloom a few days before we mow them down.
A garden is a thriving ecosystem, and bees play a crucial role. Consider creating a space to attract bees in your own backyard, and you will shortly see the benefits of increased pollination.
Have you created a bee garden? What plants do you use to attract bees to your garden?
I shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday