Friday, 13 May 2016

How to create a bee-friendly garden.

Bees are essential to life, to food, to gardens, but bees are in real crisis. Every garden, even on a balcony or rooftop, needs bee plants and habitat. What can you do to help....

Our 'bee bush' - the perennial basil.


What's wrong?

Globally, honey bees are disappearing at an alarming rate because of the spread of urban development, increasing pesticide and chemical use, parasites, disease and loss of habitat. Bees struggle to survive in our cities and suburbs because of these impacts

Why are bees so important?

  • 1/3 of all food in the world is dependent on pollination
  • 3/4 pollination of main crops are pollinated by insects (most efficient are honey bees)
  • so many vegetables and fruits require bees for pollination
  • other pollinators include birds, bats, mammals and wind
  • without bees our food sources would reduce to some grains, a few fruit species and fish. 
  • grazing animals rely on clover and other bee pollinated pastures
  • the more bees in your garden, the bigger your harvest will be 

.What do bees need?

  • range of flowering plants makes them stronger and healthier
  • plants flowering throughout the year
  • open simple flowers - these are easiest for bees to collect nectar and pollen from - avoid modern hybrids with many petalled, dense flowers 
  • access to fresh water
  • habitat and protection - logs, hollows and homes 
My vegetable garden infused with flowers to attract beneficial insects and pollinators. Open cosmos are great, so are the fennel landing pads.
What can you do?

  • Plant bee-friendly plants
  • Avoid bee harming plants and chemicals
  • Create habitat for bees and other pollinators

Create homes for native bees which also do a fabulous pollination job.

What plants attract bees?

Here is a selection of plants that are super-attractive to bees.

My garden with flowering comfrey, chives, yarrow, salvia and geranium plus a little source of water for the bees.

Herbs
  • Basil, chives, comfrey, coriander, fennel, lavender, lemon balm, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, rocket, rosemary, sage, thyme, yarrow,

I love watching the bees come down to land on these yarrow flowers.


Vegie flowers
  • Brassicas, capsicum, chilli, cucumbers, leeks and onions, pumpkins, squash….


Female pumpkin flower
Flowers
  • Alyssum, calendula, cornflower, cosmos, daisies, echinacea, geranium, marigold, roses, salvia, sunflowers, zinnia

At the end of the garden bed is a collection of pollinator attractors - basil, marigold, chives, comfrey.
Natives
  • Backhousia, Banksia, Brachysome, Callistemon, Eucalyptus, Grevillea, Leptospermum, Melaleuca, Westringia 


What vegies can we grow without bees?

If you are in a place with few bees and have issues with pollination, here are some common vegetables that self-pollinate and do not rely on bees - lettuces, peas, beans and tomatoes.

A lettuce just beginning to flower.

Some favourite bee attractors in my permaculture garden

Perennial Basil
When she was just a couple of years old my daughter called this the bee bush - and the name has stuck in our household. With sweet basil we snip the flower tips off to encourage more leaf growth, but with perennial basil, I grow it particularly for the year-round flower spikes that attract the bees into the garden. I see both native and honey bees always buzzing round this 

Lavender
In hot dry corners and along the edges of paths lavender is great. It is hardy and tolerant of dry conditions. I love the scent as I brush past it. When in flower it is just so abuzz.


Salvia 
I always scatter small red and blue salvias throughout my vegetable garden to help attract bees. They are so easy to grow and last many years. When they become a little leggy or overgrown, I simply snip off some nice pieces and plant them out somewhere else. This not only refreshes the main plant but   brings many new plants too.

Red salvia is a great bee attractor that flowers for much of the year here.

Flowering brassicas 
The abundant flowering spikes of brassicas are so attractive to bees. I always leave lots of mustard spinach and other flowering vegetables in the garden to provide a good source of food for the bees.




Lemon Myrtle
Throughout my garden are many native plants that belong in this area - Lemon Myrtle is one of these and in it is covered with masses of pale bee-atracting flowers in Autumn. I selected many of the natives particularly for attracting bees with their flowers, but also because of their habitat for insectivorous birds which help so much with pest management. I use Lemon Myrtle in so many recipes too - teas, sweets, savouries

Lemon myrtle attracts bees in Autumn to it's blossoms

For more information:


More about bees, what plants to grow, and how to make an effective bee hotel, I think this resource from Valley Bees is just so useful.  Click here to read and download this fabulous free information sheet from Valley Bees.


2 comments:

  1. Hi Morag, I really enjoyed reading this and looking at the photos of your veggie garden. I planted portulaca plants in my raised garden bed and have honey bees, and small native bees hovering over the flowers of a morning waiting for them to open. When the garden was full of cherry tomato plants and cucumbers I had bees buzzing all around me while I was working in that garden. I find they are very attracted to some palm flowers and for some reason I have been unable to fathom couch seed heads.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sherri, Isn't it wonderful spending the time to notice thee things and be part of it.

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