The massive bee die offs on Oregon and Ontario have finally drawn attention to the effects of industrial chemicals on our ecosystem and food supply. Here at Seven Trees, we make limited and judicious use of herbicides, but also maintain a large part of our property in pollinator-friendly habitat. It’s not hard to do, and can be a lovely focal point to any landscape, from farmyard to urban balcony. We did some intentional sunflower plantings in previous years, but now they pop up in random places, self-seeding. The big yellow bumbles love them, as do native birds once they go to seed. Our feral blackberry patch in the front yard is always host to thousands of bees (and frogs) during the growing season, and we love filling the freezer with berries for our morning smoothies. A neglected lavender planting on the south side of the house draws lots of bees, and provides us with fragrance when we cut some to bring inside. This tiny unknown pollinator is making bank on the flowers of a parsnip plant from last year that we are growing out for seed. Another unknown pollinator making use of the roses planted at our backyard gate. Two different kinds of bees zooming in to the motherwort bush near the baby coop. We planted motherwort as part of our medicinal herb garden, and it went a little crazy. The bees love it though, and it shades the coop in summer. Right next to the motherwort is a catmint hedge. A few years ago we planted a start of Nepeta cataria and it never looked back. We try to keep it from taking over the food garden, but let it do its thing elsewhere. Not only do the cats love it, it has lots of medicinal uses and bees of many species love it too. Motherwort is to the left, and catmint to the right. The kitties have made tunnels through the base of the catmint hedge, and hang out in the shade while nibbling on the leaves. We’ll plant more of these to shade the chicken runs as well as draw bees.
Our other plantings – clover, pumpkins, apples, plums, wildflowers, berries, etc. – also draw lots of bees, and the wild edges of our property with snowberries, nettles, blackcap raspberries, red flowering currants, cascara, rugosa roses are perennial sources of bee food and wild medicine.
There are many online resources for planning a bee garden, so the next time you get out your plant and seed catalogs, or stop by your local garden center, check out some planting ideas that could help maintain healthy pollinators.