We all know that the bees are facing some trouble due to a combination of pesticide use, food shortages linked to climate change, and habitat destruction. We also know that bees play a vital role in our food production, pollinating fully or at least playing a role in pollinating 70 or more of the top 100 food crops. You may want to help your local bee populations by planting your own pollinator garden – but you may be facing an uphill battle. Here are some common problems wannabe pollinator gardeners encounter, and how to work through them.
You’re battling water conservation or arid conditions
As a gardener, you take water for granted if you have plenty of it to use year-round. If you’re living in an area that’s routinely practicing water conservation on an aggressive scale or attempting to plant in an arid climate, you may think it’s impossible to grow a good pollinator garden. Luckily for you (and for the bees), that’s not true.
You may need to employ the fundamentals of Xeriscape: “landscaping that is designed specifically for areas that are susceptible to drought, or for areas where water conservation is practiced.” In this system, drip irrigation is usually vital to use the least amount of water possible to deliver hydration to the root areas of plants – and nowhere else. Believe it or not, there are plenty of plants that do well in drier conditions that still attract a healthy amount of bees. Buzzaboutbees.net notes that many herbs like sage, thyme, rosemary, and most of all, lavender, are drought-resistant plants that are good for bee populations. Succulents, which store water very efficiently and still produce nectar-rich flowers, are also good options. Consider native wildflowers like poppies, cornflower, and deadnettle as well.
You’re working with a small space
You don’t have to have an acre backyard to build a thriving pollinator garden – but you do have to be creative. You should make use of vertical space, as we all have some of that – no matter our dearth in square footage. Growing plants up lattice or stacking containers are good ways to achieve this. Using long planters on windowsills is also a useful strategy. Another interesting trick is to hang planters from railing, if you live in a top floor space near an outdoor staircase. There is actually a benefit to gardening in small spaces when it comes to providing for bees – they love flower groups in tight clusters. It makes it easier to get what they need.
You’re working on a limited budget
Many of the plants that bees prefer are actually some of the least expensive. Single flowers (one ring of petals), for instance, are better for bees because they are easier to access. Showy, expensive, double petal varieties are actually not as conducive to pollen and nectar extraction. Bees love native wildflowers too, which are cheaper in relation to non-native or hybrid species.
If you’re on a tight budget, consider planting from seed. While a full grown plant can cost 5, 10, or even 20 dollars at a nursery, a packet of seeds can cost as little as 50 cents. Start seeds indoors using recycled yogurt or cottage cheese containers and transfer them outdoors when they sprout. Providing accessories for your bee garden is also a cheap endeavor. Use any shallow container, fill it with landing rocks and some water and you have yourself a bee bath.
You don’t have to have a lot of space, a lot of money, or even a lot of water to build a great pollinator garden that attracts bees (and other pollinators like birds and butterflies too).
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