Category

Garden

Garden, Home and Garden

How To Attract Bees to Your Garden

how to attract bees

how to attract bees

The poor bees have taken a beating lately.  Between wet summers, a reduction in their natural habitat, disease, and the Government voting against banning the use of pesticides harmful to bees, the numbers of butterflies and bees in the UK has drastically plummeted.  Which as well as being bad news for bees, is bad news for us, as it’s estimated that at least a third of the plants we eat are directly or indirectly dependent on being pollinated by bees.

Although this vote has just been overturned by the EU (which I’m still ‘buzzing’ with excitement about!) – which means neonicotinoid pesticides (the ones that may harm bees) have been banned for use in all EU member states for the next two years – our little fuzzy friends aren’t out of the woods yet, and still need all the help they can get to help recover their population.  That help can start with you and your garden or window box, so here’s a Moral Fibres guide on how to attract bees to your garden:

How to Attract Bees To Your Garden

Plants that Attract Bees

Aim to plant a diverse mix of nectar and pollen rich plants, with a mix of early flowerers, sustained flowerers and late bloomers, so that from spring through to late summer there are flowering plants in your garden or window box.

When planting, aim to plant traditional native plants – think cottage garden and you’re on the right lines.  From roses, to lavender, to clematis, to hollyhocks, alliums, butterburs and geraniums, as well as edible flowering herbs, such as chives and thyme – as all of these are highly valued by bees:

bee friendly plants

(Left to right: alliums, butterburs {spring bloomers}, hollyhocks)

For a complete list of bee-friendly plants, here’s a very comprehensive list from the British Beekeepers Association, split by season, that can act as a handy guide.  Remember, aim to have a variety of plants that bloom from spring right through to autumn to keep the bees happy and rich in nectar!  This post on bee friendly plants is also very handy!

What Plants to Avoid

Some plants have been bred by horticulturists to look pretty, but provide little by way of pollen.  For that reason pansies and double begonias are best used only as part of a wide range of different flowers in your garden.

Other Useful Advice on How to Attract Bees to Your Garden:

bee hotels

A bee hotel will encourage solitary bees to lay eggs in your garden.   For a low cost option, gardener Alys Fowler recommends bundling some bamboo canes in a south-west corner, out of prevailing winds.  You can also drill holes in some bits of wood, which will also do the job

It’s also a little known fact that bees need drinking water – a small shallow dish in your garden will suffice.

Financing Your Garden

You can buy ready established plants at garden centres, but it’s easy to get carried away and spend a ton of money.  A more cost effective method is to pick up bee-friendly seeds at most garden centres and even supermarkets, allowing you to easily sow a little wildflower meadow for a pound or two.  Devote a patch of your garden to these seeds, or sow some in planters or tubs and the bees will be buzzing about in no time.

The most cost effective way of bee friendly gardening, however, is by getting together with your friends, family or neighbours to take cuttings from any plants you have already established in your gardens.  Most plants take well to being split at the roots (here’s some good advice on how to do it) or taking a cutting from, so you could have a little free plant swap.  Or you could take a small payment for each plant (say 25p) and donate the takings to a bee charity, such as the Bumblebee Conservation Trust or if you make enough you could adopt a hive.

Not Green Fingered?

bee gardening tips

If all this sounds like too much hard work then lazy gardeners the country over will be rejoicing when I say don’t be too harsh on the weeds.  Bees and butterflies don’t discriminate between your best flower-show quality roses and the dandelions pushing up on your path or lawn.  Weeds offer pollen and nectar to bees, and are just as valuable as any other plants in your garden – so there you  go – a nice excuse to put your feet up and let the weeds poke through – you’re doing it for the bees!

Even if you are a proud gardener, it’s prudent leaving an area of your garden to weed over for wildlife in general – nettles are especially beneficial to butterflies.

And, you know, the more bees you can attract to your garden then the more your garden will grow, with minimal effort from you, as the bees will do all the hard work of pollinating all of your flowers and vegetables.

And that’s how to attract bees to your garden!  Have I missed anything?  Do let me know in the comments below!

And one last pertinent point:

Don’t Have A Garden?

This post on how to help bees even if you don’t have a garden shows you how to do your bit!

Images: 12 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 – Opal Explore Nature / 7 / 8

Garden, Home and Garden

Greenterest – A Gardening Based Social Network

greenterest

greenterest

Are you social media savvy?  Green-fingered?  Or perhaps (like me!) not particularly green-fingered, but enthusiastic to grow your own?

You might be interested to hear that Sidekick Studios have recently created Greenterest (it’s working title) – a prototype social media platform for amateur gardeners.

The idea is to “connect amateur but enthusiastic urban gardeners with others, to learn and share in a specially-designed social network“, says Katie, one part of Sidekick Studios, ” Greenterest is made for people who already Instagram their growing efforts but aren’t sure where to turn to when they get stuck“.

gardening social network

Greenterest has a variety of functions:

  • You can create your own ‘plot’, a virtual space where you can upload snapshots of your garden/allotment; tell people about your space (whether it’s a windowbox of a few herbs, or acres of manicured gardens); tag your plants and connect with others.
  • You can plan your future plot.  If you like someone’s else’s photo, it gets added to your ‘trug’ – a stored collection of inspiration for your own garden, sortable by label.
  • Explore labels of different flowers, vegetables, soil types, growing conditions, etc, to find gardens similar to yours ; share advice and tips; and plan what will work in your plot.

social network for gardeners

This gardening based social network sounds really exciting, and really useful for garden or allotment planning and for some gardening inspiration.  At the moment, as it’s still a prototype, it contains just the bare minimum of functionality – you can join, upload photos and discover others.  However Katie says they have lots of ideas for other features that would make this a must-visit site for amateur gardeners.  The plan is that eventually you’ll be able to follow others and see their updates on your homepage, you can tag and follow certain plants or types of plant (veg, herbs flowers), there will be forums for questions and advice, and possibly even a marketplace to trade seeds and cuttings.

For me, I would love this to be fully developed as with my garden I always start out with such good intentions, but then I often fall at the first or second hurdle.  Last year it was slugs – they ate everything, and I mean everything.  I tried coffee grounds and egg shells then ran out of ideas/will to beat them.  This year, however, we have renewed vigour to get things going to recreate the success we had in 2010, where we grew a bumper crop of giant courgettes and carrots!  I think something like Greenterest would help keep up your enthusiasm – the social aspect of it would certainly encourage you to keep going, and being able to connect and talk to other gardeners and swap hints and tips would be really handy.

Update 02/06/14: sadly I’ve heard that Greenterest was shelved by it’s creators, which is such a shame!