Monday, April 28, 2014

How I Save the Bees [#CTWW]

I have always been scared of bees because of the fear of getting stung. I remember walking through a grassy field when I was a kid and getting stung on the bottom of my foot. Ouch! As I have grown into an adult and started to question more of the world around me, I realized there is no need to be afraid of bees. Society makes us think that bees are dangerous. People always seem to run away from them. If you leave the bees alone, they will leave you alone. I tended to the tomato container garden behind the purple cone flowers being frequented by huge bumble bees with no stings. The buzz of the bumble bees actually became comforting for me.

Let's change our perception of bees to being the source of our food. Bees pollinate the majority of food crops in the world. Therefore, the decline of bees should alarm everyone. What foods will we lose if the bees are not around to pollinate the majority of worldwide crops?

This week's challenge:

This week, take action to protect honey bees. Please choose at least one action from the following list:
  • Plant at least one native, flowering plant in your yard. Avoid hybrid plants ... they don't produce enough nectar or pollen and are useless to bees and other pollinators.
  • Plant a vegetable garden.
  • Let pests live (natural pest controllers, like Lady Bugs, need them for food).
  • Keep your lawn and garden pesticide-free.
  • Eliminate chemicals in your home.
  • Provide a year-round, clean source of water for bees (rainwater collection, a small garden water feature, bird bath, etc.).
  • Leave some dead trees or plants in your yard ... bees will nest in them. Or, place a bee house in your garden.
  • Buy organic food.
  • Take up beekeeping.

As the gardening bug has already bit me for this season, I have been buying plants and planting, and buying and planting. I have spent a lot of time outside during the past week. As I do the daily "garden and yard tour," I have made notes about where I can apply the above actions to protect bees. Below, I cover what actions I have already implemented and the actions I am planning on implementing in the coming month.

Native, Flowering Plants
Every year, I purchase a 3-5 plants to plant in the garden bed in front of the house. I focus on perennial, cold temperature tolerant, flowering and deer resistant plants. A variety of different colored and sized flowers is important to attract different bees.

To Do - start a flower garden in the back yard, close to the vegetable garden. The blackberry and newly planted blueberries bushes also need some bees. Maybe I can add some flowering plants to the herb garden.

Question - how can I tell if the flowering plants are hybrid or not? I have been able to find some heirloom vegetable plants, but how do I know if the Shasta daisy or the phlox is a hybrid or not?

Vegetable Garden
Check! Vegetable garden, herb garden, blackberry and blueberry bushes in the back yard. Tomato container garden in front of the breezeway.

To Do - plant more herbs in the front garden bed (edible garden). They are deer resistant and edible.

To Do - expand the container garden in front of the breezeway is companion plants for the tomatoes.

To Do - add a water feature to provide clean source of water for bees.

Dead Trees and Plants
There is an area behind the back fence between us and the house behind us. Honeysuckle, wild grape vine, weeds and other random plants provide a natural habitat for animals, critters, and bugs. Whatever is too big for the compost or will take a long time to break down goes over the fence.

Chemical Free House and Yard
A bucket a day keeps the weeds away! I have reinstated the daily weed pulling, at least until I get most of them knocked down. I stopped using chemicals in the yard 3.5 years ago and after a couple of years of not pulling weeds, we have grown super weeds in the yard. Luckily, weed pulling is therapeutic and relaxing for me, so I have been spending 30-60 minutes outside during baby's naps pulling weeds.

>> Are there any features of your garden or yard that help to protect and sustain the bee population??

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