My yard is abuzz with bees from early Spring until late October. Sometimes, I have to swat them out of my face to get any gardening done.
Yet, there is a huge loss of honey bee colonies across the country, making crop pollination dicey for farmers. Many have resorted to renting beehives. Much has been written about the crisis since 2006.
Gardeners who plant the right flowers and provide welcoming habitats can do their part in restoring the waning bee population. We can nurture bees that will travel, pollinating fruit, vegetable and flowers around us, helping commercial growers to regain bees. “Every single gardener can make a difference, even if you just plant one more container of flowers than you have previously, you can help!”, says the National Garden Bureau.
It doesn’t take much effort to help bees increase their population. Here’s how to make a difference:
Plant flowers with open petals and upright stamens for easy access by our pollen-loving friends. Cosmos, zinnias and purple coneflowers are good examples.
Choose flowers that are heavy pollen producers like salvia, penstemon and goldenrod. And pick colors that attract bees like blue salvia, yellow nasturtium, marigolds and sunflowers.
Salvia "Evolution' and other blue and purple salvia attract bees readily. Photo courtesy of the National Garden Bureau.
Herbs, oregano, mints, sage, lemon balm, rosemary, lavenders, thyme, cilantro and basil in particular, provide food for bees as well as humans. So add them to your garden. It’s simple to keep a potted herb garden on your back porch, close to the kitchen for cooking. Bees will quickly discover it. Pots keep invasives like mint in bounds, and they can be brought indoors for the winter to use.
Make sure your garden blooms from very early spring (crocus and early daffodils) to late fall asters to provide pollen as long as possible.
Limit or eliminate pesticides, which kill bees, and use compost instead of synthetic fertilizers that leave behind toxic chemicals.
Would you eat a blue strawberry? You may have the chance to sample one soon, especially if you live in a northern climate. According to Buzz Natural News, scientists are genetically modifying strawberries in order to allow them to resist freezing temperatures better. They're doing it by transferring the genes from a fish called the Arctic Flounder Fish to the strawberry.
The Arctic Flounder Fish produces an anti-freeze that protects it in freezing waters. Scientists isolated the gene that produces this anti-freeze and inserted into the berry. The result is a strawberry that looks blue and doesn't turn to mush or degrade after being placed in the freezer. While the berries aren’t being grown yet, research is advancing rapidly.
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.
In stores now!
Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.