Bees are important pollinators you want to bring to your backyard, and are an essential ingredient to any successful vege garden!
With bee population numbers dwindling all over the country, gardeners are being urged to think carefully about encouraging bees back into the garden by planting flowers and plants which provide food and shelter for them.
Honey bees and bumble bees are the two most prominent kinds in New Zealand gardens. Bees feed on the nectar produced by flowers, and while they are busy extracting the nectar, pollen sticks to their legs or bodies and rubs off onto other flowers as the bees move from one flower to another, resulting in fertilisation. This is a vital process to ensure fruit, crops and seeds are produced.
It’s particularly important for some crops such as tomatoes, beans and cucurbits (cucumber, pumpkins, watermelon) to have the help of bees for pollination. Lack of bees is a common reason for crop failure among these crops.
What to plant to encourage bees
Attract beneficial bees into your garden to aid pollination of your crops with sweet smelling flowers. Combine bee-friendly flowers into your planting by planting amongst crops in your vege garden.
The following are all great options:
- Annual flowers: calendula, marigold, sunflowers, poppies, cosmos, hollyhocks, fox gloves, echium, clover, nasturtiums.
- Perennials: comfrey, dahlias, echinacea, geraniums, aquilegia, gladiolus, lavender.
- Shrubs: Californian lilac, buddleia, echium.
- Climbers: honeysuckle, clematis.
- Fruit and vegetables: blackberry, cucumbers, pumpkin, courgette.
- Herbs: bee balm, borage, coriander, rosemary, thyme.
Bees like flowers that are single with open, simple flat shapes or clusters of tiny flowers, rather than ruffled frilly double flowers. These are the easiest for bees to get in to feed.
To provide a water source for the bees in your garden, place pebbles in a bird bath, making it shallow enough for them to land and drink the water.
If you let some of your veges got to see they will produce beautiful flowers that the bees will love too!
Planting for the Bees
Get your bee friendly plants off to the best start with Tui Flower Mix, a high quality planting mix containing the right blend of nutrients to provide sustained flowering throughout the season. We’ve added Acadian seaweed to this mix, for extra-strong healthy plants and potassium to maximise flower production. Use in garden beds, pots, containers and hanging baskets, and watch your plants reach their flowering potential before your eyes, bringing bees into your backyard!
Bees for hire
In some areas, local bee keepers hire out hives and offer classes to those that are interested in bees. Contact the National Bee Keepers association to find local contacts www.nba.org.nz.
Reduce the risk of pests and diseases by keeping plants well watered and well fertilised, to maintain a strong plant. Insects are less likely to attack if plants are healthy.
This article is supplied in part by Rachel Vogan.
- Harvest in 60-85 days