Bee friendly gardens are a great way to help the biodiversity in your corner of the Earth thrive. But, many of us are limited by the space we live in - whether that's because we live in a tiny city apartment, a sharehouse or we're renting.
While people have found ways to exercise their green thumb by becoming indoor plant connoisseurs, there are still ways to grow outdoor plants and support bees by utilising the space that you have, whether it's a windowsill, balcony or small courtyard! If you're not a practised gardener there are some easy options here to get you started as well.
Why are bees so important?
Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem, they are responsible for pollination and help plants to grow, breed and produce food. Pollination is an essential process for flowering plants and for much of the food we eat. In the UK alone it is estimated that one-third of food is pollination dependent! While important for human needs, bees also support interconnected ecosystems which allow for different species to coexist. We can see this connection in the relationship between native plants and native bee species. Within Australia there are 2000 types of native bees, many of which have co-evolved with native plants over millions of years!
In recent times there has been a significant decrease in bee populations around the world. Pesticide use, new diseases, stress, loss of habitat and climate change have all contributed to this fall. With bees facing harsher environments creating a bee-friendly space is an easy step for us all to take to support the bees, even if we don't have a large space to work with.
How to make a bee friendly even if we live in smaller spaces
If there was ever a good reason to spend a lot of time on Pinterest this would be it. Find images of spaces similar to the one you're working with, whether it's a windowsill, a balcony or a courtyard, look out for the most inventive ways to utilise your space. Options like stackable plant boxes, window boxes, or vertical planters made from old stacking pallets (search these key words) can all be used to utilise the space you have. This is also a great place to check out ideas for how to use or re-use other items, like using tins or jars as plant pots. If you are using any containers for planting just make sure they are thoroughly cleaned and non-toxic.
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Did you know Australia is home to over 1,700 species of native bees? This blue banded bee (Amegilla cingulata) was spotted in Western Australia, but can be found in all states except Tasmania and the Northern Territory. 📷 @outback_alchemist #GardeningAustralia #ABCmyphoto #bluebandedbee #bees #nativebees #australianbees #lavender #westernaustralia
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2.Consider your space
This is also a good time to check in on a few practical things. If you're working with a balcony, make sure to check if it can hold the weight of a garden particularly if you want to use heavy pots (there are also lighter pot options that look like stone but are made from lighter materials). You should also check how well your space is able to drain water and how much sunshine it gets. Making a note of this will help you when it comes time to choose your plants.
3.Pick your plants!
Now for the fun part, if you are already a gardening pro this part will be quite familiar to you, if not, now is a great time to start! A few things to keep in mind when purchasing new plants to create a bee-friendly space - some plants and bulbs are treated with insecticides or pesticides. These types of chemicals can accumulate in the systems of bees and can cause paralysis or death. To be kinder to our bee friends, consider buying organic (non-treated) plants, buy from the local farmers market or ask at your local nursery for recommendations. Keeping in mind the above steps look for plants that will suit the conditions you are growing them in (lots of sun or shade etc). When it comes to choosing your plants, the good news is that nearly all flowers will attract bees, especially those that are blue (like lavender) or yellow (like daisies). To help out native bees, ask at your local nursery for the best native plants to buy.
Choosing different varieties of flowering plants with different colours and shapes is also a great idea to encourage different kinds of bees to visit your space. Choosing plants like Lavender (also known as perennial plants) and plants that flower throughout the year will keep bees around throughout the seasons.
You aren't limited to just planting flowers either, there are also a number of fruits, vegetables and herbs that you can plant too that will bring in the bees. Examples of bee-friendly herbs are; basil (a particular favourite of honeybees), thyme, sage, rosemary, lemon balm and mint. If you're new to gardening starting out with plants like lavender and rosemary, which are particularly hardy may be easier to grow successfully the first time around.
Good luck and happy gardening!
Written by Aidan Rushworth
Aidan is an Australian Communications graduate and yoga teacher. With a love for the environment and travel she is often trying to find ways to explore and tread as lightly on the planet as she can.