Sunday, 1 October 2017

4 Ways to Transform Your Fall Garden Into a Haven for Bees

There’s a buzz these days around protecting bees. Their populations have been in decline in recent years, which is a serious problem because we rely on them for our food supply. Thankfully, there’s quite a bit we can all do to protect bee populations year-round. We tend to think of colorful blossoms throughout summer as attracting butterflies and other pollinators, but there’s no need to leave our pollinator gardens behind when fall comes. With trees, herbs, and late blooming plants, we can have beautiful pollinator gardens well into fall.

Bee populations have taken a hit in recent years, and reversing this trend is critical to maintaining food supply. The XercesSociety, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting bees, reports that bees are “necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species.” Two of the primary reasons for the decrease of the bee population are pesticide use and loss of habitats. The good news is we can easily create home gardens that tackle both of these problems.

Avoid pesticides - Avoiding all pesticide use is ideal so opt for natural pest deterrents instead, if at all possible. If you do use pesticides, look for the least toxic option. The national Forest Service recommends reading labels carefully because some pesticides are more harmful to bees than others. You can also minimize the impact to pollinators by only spraying at night when pollinators are not active.

Plant in clusters - As you add late blooming plants, group them in clusters rather than using individual plants so that pollinators are able to find them more easily. Keep these groupings close together in one part of your yard so that pollinators have a central spot that’s ideal for them. Planting these groupings close together also provides shelter for pollinators and camouflage to protect them from predators.

Choose plants wisely - In order to attract pollinators, plant a variety of colours and also choose flowers that smell nice. If you’re attracted to the smell, bees will be too. Even if you live in an urban area, you can still provide a fall bee habitat by planting a container garden with herbs, perennials, and late season annuals. If you have more space, fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. These give you beautiful leaves in the fall, and you can look forward to blossoms in early spring before most other flowers are in bloom. Many of these plants look good year-round, such as hydrangeas, Pagoda dogwood, and ninebarks. When choosing your fall plants, make sure to avoid hybrid flowers because these breeds may have eliminated the pollen and nectar that bees need.

Provide a home for bees - You can help honeybees flourish as the weather gets cooler by creating a welcoming environment for them in your garden. Some bee species nest underground, while others use openings in natural material like tree limbs. For bees that nest underground, the LA Times suggests leaving some patches of ground that are undisturbed and without mulch to give bees a spot to nest. As you transition your garden for fall, you can help pollinators by leaving some sticks and fallen branches instead of clearing them all away. You can add a beautiful rustic addition to your fall garden by building an insect house where bees can lay eggs. Some bees need water and may not get as much as they need from nectar during the fall. A bird bath placed close to your plants provides a source of water that helps bees throughout fall, and even into winter in warmer climates, but remember to put a few stones in the bottom so the bees don't drown!!

With the increasing loss of natural habitats for bees, home gardens are becoming essential to their survival. Make your garden as bee-friendly as possible well into fall by providing late blooming plants, trees, and the other eco habitats they need to survive. You get much more enjoyment from your garden by adding plants that look great year round, and pollinators will thrive thanks to your efforts.

Article written by Christy Erickson.


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