Helping Bees in Our Garden

So….as I have mentioned before, I am a novice gardener.  This is our 3rd summer to have a “formal” garden (although do not be fooled into thinking that this garden looks like an English country garden—we live in the West!  And my beautiful peony beds are planted in borders in our backyard and, as you know if you have peonies, they just come up again every spring.  There’s probably something I need to be doing for them but at this point I am not sure what.  Just so you know, “formal” here means “planned.”).  2 summers ago, a dear friend gave me a small raised garden bed.  I planted zucchini and yellow squash.  Yay!  Lots of produce!  So fun!  We’re now officially garden-obsessed.  (I can’t even tell you how many times a day I go out and gaze at our plants.)   Last May, my sweet husband built us two more raised beds; a 4′ x 4′ and a 2′ x 2′.  We had the most amazing and bountiful harvest of tomatoes, squash and sugar snap peas.  My son discovered he adored zucchini and the peas (he already loved tomatoes) and we ate amazing meals from our garden.  We also had corn and pumpkins, but because I ended up in the hospital at the end of September they got neglected and the produce was sparse.

This summer we planted zucchini, yellow squash, cherry/beefsteak/yellow pear tomatoes, and our beloved sugar snaps again.  We’d had a lot of bees earlier with the peonies but their visits have really dropped off…..as the peony petals have.  Being that novice gardener I told you I was, I was really beginning to worry.  What if I didn’t have enough bees to properly pollinate my veggies?  Was honeybee colony collapse disorder becoming dramatically worse in our area?

I decided to plant some bee-friendly plants that would encourage their visits to our garden and that would be beneficial to our little pollinators.  My mom and I made a visit today to an organic-y nursery in our city.   I found out that a) it is really too early here for me to be seeing a lot of bees, and b) that these professionals have really seen a dramatic reduction in the number of bees at their nursery.  (One staff member told me that at this time last summer they had up to 100 bees around the fountains they’d set up in the garden area; now they are seeing about 20!  That is a horrifying reduction.)

I learned that there are some wonderful plants that will really help the bees….not only draw them to my garden but benefit them as well.  Here is the tray of bee-friendly plants I bought today.

My Bee-Friendly Garden Additions

My Bee-Friendly Garden Additions

The following organic plants will go into the ground:

  • Bee Balm (red)
  • Salvia (Victoria Blue)
  • Catmint (Walker’s Low)

And in containers, I’ll be planting:

  • Daisy (Angelic Bordeaux)
  • Chocolate Mint
  • Lavender (angustifolia Lady–a garden herb variety)
  • Calosia (Glorious Mix)

The chocolate mint isn’t something I was told would help the bees in any way.  It just smells so amazing….like chocolate mint ice cream!

Please, do what you can to encourage honeybees in your garden and in your area.  Avoid chemicals and pesticides and plant bee-friendly flowers and plants.  If you’d like to learn more about Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder, you can read this excellent article by Time http://science.time.com/2013/05/07/beepocalypse-redux-honey-bees-are-still-dying-and-we-still-dont-know-why/.  And if you’d like to know about things you can do to help the bees yourself, try this article at PBS:  http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/silence-of-the-bees/how-can-you-help-the-bees/36/

Btw, the PBS article in particular mentions that Russian sage is beloved by the honeybee.  I can definitely attest to that.  We have one in the corner of our backyard, next to our peonies, and it was swarmed by honeybees (and a few bumblebees) last summer.  Not to mention a few hummingbirds!  I’m still waiting for the purple flowers to make their appearance.  I hope when they do, the bees will follow!

Enjoy!  —Wren

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4 thoughts on “Helping Bees in Our Garden

  1. We saw a show on PBS about the bee decline! and I wonder where you live in the west that you can grow peonies!! We are in southern California and I’ve never seen them growing here. I would love to have them in our yard!

  2. Pingback: The Bee Magnets « Putney Farm

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