Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bringing the bees back to my Garden!

This is my first season gardening at this house. It hasn't started out so well. Everything sprouted and then was soon pulled up by birds or just stayed the same size little sprouts for what seemed like weeks. I started using my duck pond water to water the garden and it helped. Now we have some squash but  they just  get soft and squishy before they are ready to harvest. The tomato's flowered but still haven't put out any tomato's. I did some research and found that it is more than likely a pollination issue. That makes since being that in our neighborhood there is really nothing growing. Everyone's front yards are full of gravel and rocks. No one has planted or maintained anything in our yard in YEARS. This house sat vacant for over 2 years before we bought it. The soil is horrible and it is like a dead zone. I have been slowly working on building garden paths, raking and sifting out the rocks, building up the soil, and composting but I need to attract pollinators. So here's my plan. I am going to start a bee garden.
Bee's have some specific needs, just like we all do. They need food, water, and a safe pesticide free place to live and lay there eggs.

Step 1: No Chemicals in the garden (this is a given here, but just in case you didn't know, don't spray pesticides or herbicides around your bee garden or areas you want the bees to pollinate. Those chemicals are dangerous for everyone)

Step 2: Plant flowering plants. Bees prefer blue and purple flowers. I am going to try and stick to low water use plants. I don't know of a lot of Native flowers here in Arizona that are blue or purple except for Lantana. So my garden will be mostly Lantana, Zinnias, Cosmos, Geraniums, verbena  and Marigolds. I might even throw in some herbs like thyme or mint in the fall. They don't grow well here in the summer.

Step 3:  Provide them with water. I am putting a a few planter bases filled with small stones that I can fill with water for them.

Step 4: Provide housing. Mason bees do not live in a nest or hive like other bees, they live in holes in wood. They do not bore holes so you don't have to worry about them destroying structures, they live in pre existing holes. The male mason bee isn't capable of stinging and the female rarely stings. You can build a mason bee house by taking a scrap piece of lumber and drilling holes with a 5/16 drill bit about 4 inches deep. Make sure you choose a piece of wood thick enough for hole this deep. Do not use treated wood. You can put chicken wire over it too keep the birds from picking the bees out. Or you can buy a Mason bee house.

Mason Bee House    Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide, Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies

Happy Gardening!!!