3 Tips for Novice Gardeners Who Want to Help Bees by Christy Erickson
If you want to start a home garden to help the bees but don’t have a green thumb or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening to know whether you have a green thumb, don’t lose hope.
Even novice gardeners can grow some flowers and vegetables and help bees and other pollinators thrive. It’s more important now than ever before for you to take a leap into gardening because bee populations are declining, and we rely on bees for pollinating about one-third of all our food. Simply put, without bees and other pollinators, global food production would take a devastating hit. Our three tips for novice gardeners will help you develop a green thumb and, more importantly, protect bees in your backyard.
1. Spend Time Preparing the Soil
If you have not gardened successfully in the past, spend time learning gardening dos and don’ts. For instance: preparing your soil for new flowers and vegetables is essential because a healthy garden results from healthy soil. It’s also wise to determine the pH of your soil using a soil testing kit from your local home improvement store or nursery. Bulbs typically need a pH balance between six and seven, so if yours is at a different level, talk with the experts at the store or nursery about how to make corrections by adding minerals such as limestone or lime sulfur. Beware of certain products that could be toxic to bees when making pH adjustments to your soil; by itself, sulfur is highly toxic to bees, yet lime sulfur products are safe for bees.
2. Ensure Your Garden Materials are Bee Safe
Sadly, much of what we do to help bees actually is responsible for killing them.
According to the Huffington Post, one report shows that 54% of regularly purchased so-called bee-friendly plants from chain home improvement stores contain neonicotinoid pesticides. The European Union has banned these pesticides on flowering crops, but they continue to be used and sold in the United States. You should look at the garden products and materials you have at home and immediately stop using those that contain neonicotinoids: the product labels will contain acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam as active ingredients.
The better bet is to start your garden with products that you know are organic and bee safe. You can do so by purchasing organic plant starts or growing plants from untreated seeds in organic potting soil. Then, avoid using soil, pesticides, and fertilizers that contain neonicotinoids and other ingredients that are toxic to bees. One trick is to attract beneficial insects that prey on pests in your garden by planting specific flowers and herbs. If you’re not sure which plants will attract beneficial insects, check out this post by Permaculture Research Institute. If you absolutely cannot get rid of pests without other interventions, use insecticidal soaps or oils or other eco-friendly pest control products. (Tip: Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford shares tips for making your own insecticidal soap.)
3. Choose Plants that are Easy to Grow and that Attract Bees
Novice gardeners won’t do much to help bees if they try to grow plants that are better suited to people with extremely green thumbs. You will have a much more successful garden and help bees thrive if you choose plants that are easy to grow and that bees love.
For example, lavender, black-eyed Susans, daylilies, and Spiraea, are easy plants that attract bees and provide them with plenty of pollen and nectar. If you want to plant an edible garden, there are some vegetables and herbs that are more attractive to bees than others, including artichoke, beans, cucumbers, peas, squash, basil, low-growing clover, mint, rosemary, and oregano.
Novice gardeners can do a great deal to help bees by doing their best to start a backyard garden. You should spend time preparing the soil, avoid garden materials that are toxic to bees, and choose plants that are easy to grow and that attract bees.
Image via Pixabay by Antranias