We’ve been hearing about the appalling decline in the numbers of honeybees in the press on a regular basis for quite some time now. In fact my recent foray into the world of war time gardening suggested that there were concerns about it even then. Bees are essential pollinators and we should all be doing our bit to stem the flow in decline. We’ve always tried to encourage wildlife onto our plot – especially bees. For organic gardeners they are an essential part of the team…..and we do our best to keep our workers happy.
Time was at least one hive could be found in every village and there are moves afoot to help would-be beekeepers get started. My local agricultural college has been running free beekeeping courses for instance. Beekeeping is not for everyone however. Some (small, modern) gardens are not suitable for siting a hive and not everyone has access to an area away from pets and children on which to get started, although a London friend of mine produces the most delicious honey from her rooftop hives.
So what can we all do?
- Providing homes for native mason bees is a start. You can buy these online, pick one up a bespoke one made by an artisan at a local fair or fashion you own homespun variety.
- Practising organic gardening techniques is helpful. Gardening shouldn’t be an endless struggle to control our natural environment at whatever cost. Our mix of companion planting, a few sacrificial crops and spending time in the garden every day means we still have enough to eat and admire.
- Planting bee friendly gardens is a vital activity. Bees like swathes of flowers so make your borders and beds as wide as possible with many levels of flowers. Try to have something in flower throughout the year ands avoid a look which is too manicured. (Not difficult on our plot!!) A ‘dedicated wildflower meadow’ can be a pocket patch at the bottom of your garden. Try some traditional cottage garden flowers rather than the stock favourites of busy lizzies and petunias. Lavender, rosemary, aquilegia, cornflower, sunflowers, everlasting peas, ceonothus, foxgloves, bluebells…you know the sort of thing. Bees seem particularly partial to blue flowers for some reason. If you know why, please let me know. Bees also need water but birdbaths are not suitable for such little creatures. A few saucers of wet sand dotted around which you puddle from time to time is ideal.
We feel that we should be going the extra mile here and so 10% of our profits from the business part of the Country Gate Plot are being donated to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust this year. Check their website out for further information.