8 Ideas To Create A Bee-friendly Garden
by Ankita Priyadarshini
Last time, we discussed about birds – how to make your space inviting to them. Today, let's talk about a very important stakeholder in gardens that most of us forget about - the humble bee. Bees are pollinators, and they do so much more than collect nectar for short term and long term consumption. It is imperative that we keep them in mind while planning our green spaces. Bees pollinate not just your garden, but most of the world’s food crops – meaning most of the food we eat is courtesy our tiny winged friends. If bees become extinct, we cannot even begin to comprehend how far reaching the consequences would be.
As a balcony gardener, I used to feel I was helpless when it came to solving such far reaching world-wide problems; but I soon realized that each of us can make a difference in the bee population through our gardens. Listing down some simple steps I followed which have immensely increased the number of bees visiting my balcony garden:
1. Growing flowers that bees like – Depending upon your region of residence, the types of plants you can grow vary. Read a bit, talk to your “maali”, your local nursery or gardening enthusiasts around you to find out which plants suitable to your region are known to attract bees. In my experience, Chrysanthemums, Calendula, Desi Rose (Rosa Indica), Plumbago, Indian Hibiscus (the red one, Gurhal/Javakusum), Daisies and Dahlias are favoured by bees.
2. Growing single/open flowers – Leaving out a few exceptions, double headed or deep flowers produce much less nectar than single headed flowers. The pollen is often very hard for bees to reach. A lot of hardwork with not enough pay-off. Plant single headed and open flowers so that pollen and nectar is easy to reach for bees.
3. No to hybrids – Hybrid plants are genetically designed not to reproduce. They do not form fruit or seed, and have little pollen and even lesser nectar. Again, a waste of time and effort for bees.
4. Flowers instead of a lawn – Replace lawns with a wildflower field, which will be a buffet for bees. If you like your grasses’ try to find flowering ornamental grasses. If you must have a lawn, make as many flower borders as possible, to utilize the space for bees in some way.
5. Steady supply of flowers – Bees are highly intelligent creatures, they retain their favorite routes in memory. What this means for you is that if in a certain season your garden is full of attraction for them, they’ll keep coming back. During off season, if your garden is bare, they’ll have to go elsewhere. This is a waste of time and effort for them, and might mean that come summer they may not visit you again since their winter visits were for naught. Make a plan involving perennials and seasonals, accounting for all seasons. This ensures a steady supply of food for bees at all times.
6. No pesticides, ONLY natural if at all – Chemical pesticides cannot differentiate between friend and foe. You will kill ants, bees, ladybugs along with mealybugs and aphids. Try not to use pesticides, and if at all, try tobacco leaf decoction, neem oil, cow urine etc. From experience, they are very effective on aphids and mealybugs, without giving grief to bees or birds.
7. Provision for water – We have discussed this when talking about birdbaths. Customise your birdbaths such that bees can use them too. Line them with small pebbles and keep them shallow. Bees need access to fresh water to drink, get fresh and to regulate temperatures inside their hives.
8. Nesting – If you have a big enough garden, leave some areas untouched for the bees to nest in and make their hives. Try not to disturb any hives as long as they’re not dangerous. If need be, contact professional for relocation of vibes to safer places. Most small spaces do not have this issue, for bees prefer undisturbed spaces.
No matter how large or small your garden, the plants you procure and nurture can definitely serve the dual purpose to help bees. As long as you are gardening, might as well put that effort in the right direction.
Do you have tips about creating a bee-friendly garden or balcony? Leave a comment below to share.
About Ankita Priyadarshini: "An MBA by training, an artist by true calling, and a writer by choice - is how I see myself. Harassed as only a first-time mother of an infant can be, I can be found playing with him, wrestling him for feeds or sketching or gardening or writing in every free minute to keep my sanity. Art and gardening are my two passions and they are deeply interrelated, for my garden is the biggest source of inspiration for my art. I try my best to live a holistic and eco conscious life; and I am very honored to be a part of this tribe of health, wellness and ecology warriors."
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