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by Stephen Smith
Garden for Bees
Many of you will have read that if bees become extinct, mankind will follow within a few years. Whether or not that is actually true, there is no doubt that bees play a crucial role in the pollination of our food, and they are facing a tough, tough time out there. Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, monocultural farming, viruses, mites, a loss of habitat – these are just a few of the threats that bees are facing at the moment, and they are losing the battle in many parts of the world.
But we, the humble gardeners, can play an important part in saving bees from extinction, just by planning what we plant in our food gardens, and what chemicals we use on them.
Bees need flowers that produce both pollen and nectar, nectar from which to make honey for carbohydrates, and pollen for proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. A hive requires a mass of bee-friendly plants flowering at any one time of the year, and preferably a variety of species that can supply a range of nutrients.
The trick is therefore to plant bunches of bee-friendly plants that flower at the same time, or bunches of one particular bee-friendly plant, at various spots in the garden. A few bunches like this that flower at different times of the year will go a long way in keeping your local bees healthy. An added bonus is that attracting bees to your garden will increase the yield of your fruits and veggies. And if you’re really keen, you could keep a hive and harvest your own honey!
TIP: Don’t forget the water! Bees need a constant, clean water source just like the rest of us. The perfect bee-bath is shallow, with sloping edges, so that they don’t drown. Alternatively, place branches and stones in a birdbath, so that bees have somewhere to land. They will also suck water out of mud.
Below is bee-friendly fruit and veggies, as well as an example diagram of how you could plant your edible garden to benefit our little pollinators.
Fruit and Veggies:
• All Year: Beetroots, carrots and onions (These only flower if you don’t harvest them, so you choose between a harvest or flowers.)
• Spring: Apples, apricots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, citrus, peaches, pears and plums.
• Spring to Summer: Beans, cucumbers, ornamental gourds (calabashes) and pumpkins, squashes, watermelons and other sweet melons (spanspek), and wild garlic.
• Summer to Autumn: Peppers and tomatoes.
• Winter to Spring: Artichokes, peas and strawberries.
• All Year: Parsley, perennial basil (unless in a frosty area), thyme (best in cooler months), borage (unless in a frosty area).
• Spring to Summer: Catmint and other mints, dill, fennel and sage.
• Summer: Basil, borage (in frosty areas), coriander and origanum.
• Summer to Autumn: Bee balm (bergamot), echinacea, lemon verbena, rosemary and sunflowers.
• Winter to Spring: Calendula and lavender.