Saturday, July 2, 2016

Create a Haven for Bees: The Bee-Friendly Garden

by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn
with lovely photographs by Leslie Lindell

Kansas Dad is the only real gardener here on the Range, but when I do think about the garden, I think about bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds much more than vegetables. They are, of course, inter-related.

In this book, the authors explain why bees are important, how individual gardeners across the country can make a different for bees, and how to create garden spaces to nurture and protect bees.

Kate Frey tells how she became interested in bees in the Preface:
Soon I was spending more time watching what was visiting the flowers in my gardens than looking at the flowers themselves. The garden became a place of intrigue.
The authors are encouraging to those who think they have little to offer bees.
An effective bee-friendly garden doesn't have to be large, nor does it have to be complicated. You can begin with a bare site and develop a bee-friendly garden from scratch, or you can simple incorporate some bee-friendly plants into an existing garden.
They argue that small gardens to make a difference, especially in more urban areas where there is a lack of gardens, especially gardens that are bee-friendly. The explain how to provide reliable and appropriate food sources, how pesticides can harm bees, the importance of nesting spaces and how to provide them, and encourage especially the use of native plants which are more easily grown.
From week to week, there are different bee species emerging and disappearing in your garden, so if flowers are only available for a short period in the spring, there will not be pollen and nectar available for the later emerging species. It also means that practices like tilling the soil in the early spring or removing dead tress can actually kill nesting bees.
The stereotyped American yard is not bee-friendly: gravel, plastic weed barriers, extended areas of lawn, and clipped hedges (cutting off the flowers). Luckily, the authors provide a variety of options of easy-care lawns and gardens for busy suburban families. Some even require less work than mowing every week.

A bee-friendly garden can be one of delight throughout the seasons.
As bees emerge and forage seasonally, you will see different bees in different seasons in your garden. Having a variety of plants blooming at different times of the year supports many different bees and provides you with a changing landscape of flowers and bees.
Healthy bees require a variety of food sources, different kinds of flowers, but in addition, they require a certain amount of each one because bees visit only a single kind of flower on any given trip. The authors recommend a 3 foot by 3 foot patch or a similar amount of the flower spread throughout the garden.

Throughout the book are lots of examples of different plants, how they might be combined, and even recommendations on placement within a garden to create a variety of different garden spaces. The resources in the back of the book list nurseries, public gardens, books, organization, website, and an extended regional plant list with many options for different areas within the United States.

Inspired by this book, Kansas Dad and I hope to tackle a particularly finicky garden bed in front of our house. We're putting together a plan for next spring that will include some of the recommended flowering plants. I'm also considering incorporating the importance and variety of bees in our area into our nature study...somehow. In the meantime, I've come to appreciate some of the variety we already have.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. The opinions above are my own. The links in this post are not affiliate links.

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