There is a lot of news recently about the risks to our diverse pollinating insects, friendly insects, and honey providing bees. As a gardener, I like to add forage for friendly insects. As a beekeeper - a new one, still learning - I also like to add plants forage for my honeybees. Even though they can fly 3 miles for nectar and pollen, I like to think they benefit from what I can grow nearby.
The rules for me are, no toxic chemicals. I favor plants that tolerate local conditions without too much extra care - so went winter, occasional freezes, dry summers with cool nights. Also, provide forage across seasons. Insects need food spring, summer, and fall. I want to concentrate as much in the limited area, as I can, so it's 3-dimensional. Trees and shrubs give a vertical dimension. Finally, I like getting fed by the plants too, so edibles are part of the bee garden too.
It's just beginning. We've only had this property for 11 months. I've been ill, and the prognosis is uncertain, which does affect my decisions. I also have to follow local ordinances, legal restrictions on plants I might like, but are listed as noxious weeds, and patent restrictions for some potentially useful but expensive plants.
Here's a few pics of the work in progress. These photos are taken today, July 4th 2013.
Beehive in the background. By not mowing, the daisies take over. Behind the beehive, feral blackberries offer pollen and nectar when blooming, then berries for me. Behind the blackberries, feral hawthorn provides nectar and pollen, finishing before the blackberries start. The blackberries and hawthorn are considered weeds, but as far as I know I'm not required to remove them.
A little "nursery" where I'm maturing seedlings for catnip, lemon balm, and lavender. All are excellent pollen plants.
A Tilia americana - American Linden tree, one of the best trees for honeybee nectar, one of the best varietal honeys - will be years before it produces much. Around most of my trees I plant a bee forage plant, such as lemon balm, mints, oregano, thyme. This Linden was expensive - I bought it mail order, last winter. It did have a few flowers, just finished. Not much. I've also planted 4 larger Tilia cordata, European lindens. They were close-out at Home Depot, last fall/winter. They are bigger, but no flowers this year.
I don't know yet if Buddleia is good for honeybees. These are non-invasive cultivars. The old, fertile ones are illegal in the Pacific northwest, but the new, noninvasive ones are patented. So I look for them on sale or close-out. Today there were butterflies on this one. Most of the others are in bud, to bloom in a week or two. Then, until fall - sterile cultivars bloom continuously until fall. This is a beneficial bloom time, long after the Spring flowers have completed their bloom cycles. Since Buddleia is not 'politically correct' for pollinator gardens, it's hard to get accurate info.
The wildflowers got off to a difficult start - too much grass. I need to decide on a way to remove grass.
I've been sowing clover seeds wherever there are bare spots in the lawn. Started that last fall. Clovers are among the best bee forage, and bloom in summer after fruit trees and most berries have finished blooming. Dandelions are also great bee forage and in season now. Mowing high, the clovers flourish but the grass is still relatively trimmed.
This fall, I want to plant big patches of deer- and rabbit- resistant spring blooming bulbs - Hyacinthoides (Spanish bluebells) and Narcissus, plant more clover patches, and if the force is with me, eradicate more grass to plant a better wildflower meadow.
A chicken tractor does work for grass removal, and tills the top layer of soil. I don't know how wide an area they can work between now and winter. The hens love eating the grass and weeds, and bugs and slugs. By confining them in the tractor, they are safe from local varmints. It takes one 2 weeks for them to destroy the grass under the tractor, during the dry summer months, maybe 1 week when it's wetter.
I'm hoping neighbors will view this as an example, and it will get them thinking about becoming more friendly to pollinating insects and supportive of beneficial ecology.
You know the old story: no matter how fast a gunslinger you think you are, there is always someone faster that you. That's the way I feel after reading your post and seeing your wonderful photos! Here I think I do so well "gardening", and you show me up big time. Wow! How impressive! I am so jealous and envious. I wish I had time to comment on several things--bees, clover, "weeds", etc. Congrats and keep up the good work.
I'm glad to learn that bees can travel 3 miles. I don't know where the ones in my garden come from as the closest edge of the city is 2 miles away.
Every-time I see a bee pollinating my plants now, I think of you.
Sentient, this is the first I have seen these photos. I had a bad week after my last four hour chemo and so am very far behind. I feel much better this week. In two weeks I will be half way through chemo. Since I have the four hour chemo every three weeks, I just write that week off as "rough water" time, and then enjoy the next two weeks.
I love your garden! It is just right for what this planet needs. You set a beautiful example, not only for your neighbors, but for the "godless in the garden" community. With you guide to gardening for older folks, we have many references from which to choose.
Your chicken tractor offers a real asset to the grass, chickens, and interest to the observer! Did you build it?
Joan, sorry your week was hard. Glad you are feeling better and the light is there at the end of the tunnel.
For what it's worth, my treatment is not as rough as yours. But I am usually nauseated, and other gastric stuff, and the fatigue is every day. But I'm very fortunate to have this treatment. Really looking forward to a week off later this month.
Anyway, thank you for your kind comments. I'm really glad you are here.
I didn't build this chicken tractor. We bought it 2nd hand via Craigslist. If there is time and energy, I might build one. They are really simple.
Thanks for the pics.