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The Bee Friendly Garden

By October 23, 2016The Balance

That’s what we’re aiming for here- a bee friendly garden. It’s also the name of the latest book I’m reading (a present from my mum to Rick for his birthday, but he’s not getting much of a chance to read it yet…I’m immersed!).

So originally we were just looking at what plants we should be buying and planting to attract and feed our bees (who are fast becoming like pets…pets you don’t bother trying to cuddle, that is!).

Rick’s rather proud of his bees 🙂

But as I read into Doug Purdie’s “A Bee Friendly Garden” I started to learn and consider so much more than just what species we should be planting for the bees.

By the way, Doug’s book is gorgeous! It’s so beautifully presented and overflowing with lovely photos…looks more like a book that should be adorning a coffee table rather than informing people about bees.

Doug is a rooftop gardener in Sydney, which I think is very innovative. Why not transform the bleak concrete rooftop into a garden and help the bees survive and thrive in the urban world?

We think of bees of providers of our honey supply, and pollinators of our plants. But I didn’t realise just how pivotal the pollination via bees is to the formation of strong, sweet and correctly formed fruit. You know when you see an apple that’s lop-sided? Well improper pollination causes that. I don’t know if it’s the only cause, but there you go!

The there’s the weeds. We as a culture consider them pests and opt instead for manicured lawns. But most of us (myself included) have probably never stopped to consider the environmental effect of destroying all the weeds and not allowing areas to go to seed. I realise there’s various prickly weeds that are not desirable for letting loose…but things like English Plantain (pictured above) are one of the nutritious weeds on the planet. Far better for you than most greens you’re buying for your salads from the shops…or even the farmers markets. And left alone, it produces a flower that I’ve seen the bees visiting for nectar. So many weeds are like this. They are part of a healthy bees varied diet, if they can find them. But in city areas especially, where long grass and weeds are considered an eyesore, the bees are really missing out.

Pictured above is wild cabbage, another very nutritious weed, that produces yellow flowers for the bees to easily find and feed from.

In all honesty though, we do mow down weeds and all in our house yard (especially in snake season!). But the paddock is very much wild weeds.

Like humans, bees need a varied diet to remain healthy. I’m no expert, but presume some of the bee/hive pests and illnesses like AFB are a result of a lack of variation in the bees diet.

Australia is one of the best countries in the world for honey production and has little in the way of diseases that other beekeepers around the world have to fight with. But we still need to be careful. What do you think it does to the bees when their flowers in a field of crops have been sprayed with roundup or other such toxic chemicals? Or when bees are trying to find clover in a sports field, but it’s been sprayed or mowed down too, therefore robbing them of that food source. Doug mentions in his book that one Sydney suburb was especially targeting clover for poisoning on their sports fields, because they thought the risk of someone getting stung and having a severe allergic reaction was too high! Sounds like people are getting a bit too precious! But it’s those same people who are losing out, because if the bees die out in their area, so does their ability to grow food in that area.

What are we doing about all this? Well, at Birdsong, our bees are presently enjoying the varied feed from our house garden plot and the many natives in the scrub on our neighbours properties. They’re also got weeds that have gone to flower in the paddock, and gums on our block. We’ve built a pond in the paddock that we’re gradually planting edible bee friendly plants around as an insect haven (to attract other beneficial insects). I’ll have to post a picture of that soon. The pond itself is pretty much done, and I’ve been bartering veges for plants over the past few weeks, to get it landscaped!

Even if you never want to keep bees yourself, The bee Friendly Garden is a great book to get you started on the path to awareness and action to help our bees and preserve our societies ability to produce quality produce for a long time to come.

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