Tips For Creating A Bee-Friendly Garden

Alys Fowler

Alys Fowler

 

Top tips for creating a bee-friendly garden this spring by TV presenter Alys Fowler

Gardening writer and TV presenter Alys Fowler is offering British gardeners top tips to help our bees, as part of Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaign to save vital bees that pollinate our food and make our countryside, parks and gardens thrive.

Gardeners are also being asked to help urge the Government to strengthen its plans to protect Briatain’s bee populations.

More than 20 UK bee species are already extinct and a quarter of those remaining are at risk – due mainly to their food and nesting sites disappearing, with 97% of wildflower meadows gone in the last 60 years.

Alys Fowler said:

Gardens are becoming one of the most important refuges for Britain’s wild and honey bees, providing chemical-free food, clean water and a place to nest.

The Government must strengthen its plan to protect bees and other pollinators – but gardeners have a key role to play too.

Taking steps to make your garden bee-friendly brings in other beneficial insects and wildlife too, helping your garden to find its natural balance. When the balance is right, there is no such thing as a pest problem, meaning less work for you.

In return, bees will pollinate your fruits and vegetables, giving you more strawberries, apples and tomatoes to enjoy.

Alys’ top tips for a bee-friendly garden

  • Planting nectar and pollen rich flowers will help you and the pollinators.  Crimson clover (trifolium incarnatum) will please the bees and increase soil fertility through its nitrogen fixing roots.
  • Lacy phacelia (phacelia tanacetifolia) is a green manure that if left to flower will bring hordes of bees. Once it has finished flowering, but before it goes to seed, you can dig it in to improve the fertility of your soil.
  • Allow edible plants like coriander and rocket to flower, these are attractive to bees and once pollinated you can collect seed to sow for next year.
  • Soft fruit is wonderful for bees and delicious to eat too. Take your pick from blackberries, currants and gooseberries to wineberries, blueberries and raspberries – there’s something for every garden.
  • Provide a clean source of drinking water for bees. All that’s needed is a shallow bowl with a few pebbles in the middle, so the bees can rest and sip water.
  • Wild bees need nesting sites, somewhere dry and warm. Make a ‘bee hotel’ by bundling together some old stems of stuff like Jerusalem artichokes or bamboo canes south west facing out of prevailing winds.

Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director, Andy Atkins said:

Green-fingered gardeners are usually green-minded too, so we hope they’ll help safeguard crucial pollinators by making their gardens bee-friendly

Avoid peat and pesticides

Friends of the Earth is also urging gardeners to avoid pesticides and peat. There are many excellent peat-free alternatives to avoid the destruction of peat bogs, which are important wildlife sites that absorb carbon pollution and reduce flood risk.

Take action

Gardeners are also being urged to sign a petition calling for the Government’s plan to reverse bee decline – the draft National Pollinator Strategy – to be considerably strengthened to tackle all the threats bees face, especially from intensive farming and pesticides: www.foe.co.uk/beespetition.

Gosh Darn You, Martha Stewart!

I fell in LOVE with the cover of Martha’s Easter Issue. I was positively obsessed!!

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I mean, what’s not to love, right??

So, with my characteristic over-enthusiasm, I decided to recreate Her basket for my daughter’s in-law’s Easter Table. That won’t be too hard, I told myself.

Around two hundred dollars’ worth of Martha Products later, I have a reasonable facsimile of Her Easter basket, if I do say so myself. Minus the adorable lop-eared bunny, of course!

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Martha may not have a warm and fuzzy personality, but She’s still one of my Pantheon of Women Goddesses. Hey, Athena wasn’t Miss Congeniality either! And who else could have had a bunch of federal prison inmates crafting?? To gild the lily, She’s an avid beekeeper too!!

She’s the tops in my book.

Have a wonderful Easter, Martha.  I was just kidding You in the title of my post.  🙂

 

Cottage Gardening – The Grand Dahlia

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It’s a cold, rainy and generally gloomy Saturday in Cincinnati. I’ve managed to get a few errands done, but all I want to do is curl up and keep warm. Maybe do a bit of needlepoint…

Then there appeared a  bright spot – the blooming of a spectacular Autumn-colored dinner plate dahlia!!  It loves the miserable weather.  A gorgeous reminder that even a dark and damp Fall day can be beautiful!!

Cottage Gardening – October Garden

The coming of Fall is bittersweet. I hate to see my garden dying, but some flowers are at their most beautiful. Here are a few pictures I took yesterday.

Bee-Friendly Dahlia

Bee-Friendly Dahlia

White Dahlia And Hosta

White Dahlia And Hosta

The Last of the Roma Tomatoes

The Last of the Roma Tomatoes

Goodbye Until Next Year

Goodbye Until Next Year

Summertime

Summertime,
And the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’
And the cotton is high

Oh, Your daddy’s rich
And your mamma’s good lookin’
So hush little baby
Don’t you cry

One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky

But until that morning
There’s a’nothing can harm you
With your daddy and mammy standing by

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English Cottage Gardening – Herbs Of The Mint Family

Herbs of the Mint family are a beautiful and useful addition to any cottage garden. They include such favorites as basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender, and lemon balm.

Basil flowers

Basil flowers

Sage

Sage

Originally, cottage gardens were grown for household use, not for beauty alone. Herbs were used as medicine, as flavoring for food, and to freshen the air in the damp, musty lodgings.

Rosemary

Rosemary

The concept of a separate herb garden, isolated from other flowering plants, would have been inconceivable to an early cottage gardener. Herbs and vegetables were grown side by side with roses and foxgloves, both of which also had household uses.

Bee on Lavender

Bee on Lavender

As you can see from these pictures, herbs can be as beautiful as purely decorative plantings. They are also very attractive to bees and butterflies.

Thyme

Thyme

I try to incorporate as many as I can into my overall garden design.

Beautiful Beekeeping – I Was Framed!

My Buckfast bees refuse to build on easy-to-use, pre-assembled cheap plastic frames. I can’t say that I blame them.

So I spent the bulk of my weekend hand-crafting wooden frames with wired wax foundation. Thirty-eight of them!

Twenty-eight of the thirty-eight frames I built this weekend

Twenty-eight of the thirty-eight frames I built this weekend

When I bought my first hive almost a decade ago, I had the option of having it assembled or assembling it myself. The difference was $60.00. In an uncharacteristic fit of thriftiness, I chose self-assembly.

About $200 dollars worth of tools and countless woman-hours later, I had built my first bee hive, complete with frames!

I’m still proud of that accomplishment. I also learned a whole lot about the structure and function of every part of the hive.

Which is why I wasn’t daunted by the prospect of assembling thirty-eight frames from what looks like a bag of sticks and some sheets of wax.

Bag of sticks and sheets of wax...

Bag of sticks and sheets of wax…

Two of my three hives are now happy campers. The third hive is another story. They’ve rejected wax in favor of building their own digs.

Combs built from the hive cover

Combs built from the hive cover

The bees are happy even if I'm not...

The bees are happy even if I’m not…

I removed a frame from each hive box and placed comb between the spaces. I hope it works!!

In any event, I’m going to try going foundation-less in my next hive. The bees seem to really like building their own homestead.

I’m going to let my bees be bees!

English Cottage Gardening – Bees Love Nepeta And So Do I

I love Nepeta aka catmint!  It’s also a favorite of honey bees and other pollinators. It’s deer resistant too!

Below one of my ever-present fluffy Bumbles enjoys a tasty snack…

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It is a beautiful plant to use in a border. Gertrude Jekyll wrote “it is a plant that can hardly be overpraised.”

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I find catmint easier to grow than lavender. If you cut it back after first bloom, it will bloom again just as vigorously.

My favorite cultivar is Walker’s Low which was the 2007 Perennial of the Year. The name, Walker’s Low, does not refer to the size of the plant, but to a garden in England.

Plant some catmint this summer. Your buzzing friends will thank you!

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