Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
March, 2011
Regional Report

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The bees are out and ready to go to work in your garden. Keep them safe.

Create A Bee Friendly Garden

My fruit and vegetable garden would not be successful without the buzz of honeybees, bumblebees, and other bees that busily work the flowers. All kinds of bees deserve to be nurtured and praised for their faithful work on our gardens' behalf. With the continued concerns about the plight of honeybees being killed by parasitic mites and careless use of pesticides, other pollinator bees provide an under-appreciated service to keep our fruits and vegetables producing well.

Every year I make an effort to encourage bees to visit my fruit, vegetable, and flower gardens. I plant a variety of plants they like to feed on. It is important to provide a steady food source for honeybees and other bees during their active period from March through October. Additionally, I avoid the use of many insecticides and other pesticides, as bees are sensitive to many synthetic types. And even pesticides considered "organic" can be harmful to bees, including pyrethrum and pyrethin, sabidilla, and spinosad. Pesticide residues can be carried back hives, which can wipe out substantial numbers. Have you ever thought about that when you reach for a pesticide? Wonder why your garden produced a minuscule crop of strawberries or zucchini? Maybe it was caused by the lack of pollinated flowers.

Over my many years of gardening, I've rarely used anything stronger than homemade remedies, horticultural oil sprays, or insecticidal soaps to combat harmful pests; vinegar and flaming to get rid of weeds; and baking soda for control of leaf diseases. A strong stream of water is an effective way to wash away aphids and thwart spider mites!

Invite bees to your garden by planting salvia, lavender, veronica, catmint, columbine, bee balm, chives, and borage. Bees also feed and collect pollen from daisy-type flowers like zinnias, bachelor's buttons, asters, cosmos, and gaillardia. Masses of brightly colored blooms attract bees better than individual plants, so plant abundantly.

As a child I was curious and amazed by the insect activity in the landscape. Bumblebees meticulously worked blossoms and collected pollen on their legs. Alfalfa cutter bees delicately carved crescent-shaped pieces from foliage to build nests. Now the honeybees are back in our gardens, ready to go to work. I encourage you to take time to observe and appreciate all kinds of bees for their important role in our gardens. The more environmentally friendly gardening practices you adopt, the more you'll help to protect these beneficial pollinators and make your garden more productive.

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