pollinators and planning: Project Bee

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sunflower @ naples botanical garden

I’ve been thinking a lot about pollinators lately. I have a few plants outside (beyond the screened in lanai which holds the bulk of my garden) that require pollination and NONE of them have grown fruit/veggies this season. Just last year (or maybe it was the year before?) I was getting tons of peppers and cucumbers and even a pumpkin. Now: zilch.

I don’t see many pollinators around. I know there’s a situation with bees, and I want to help if I can, but in our little location (most of our property is occupied by our house/lanai and a sea wall), there’s not space for a bee hive.

The ironic thing is that we actually HAD a bee hive, but only for a day. It was probably there longer, but we didn’t notice for a while. The hive had been built inside our cable box on the edge of our property, and the box legally belongs to the cable company. If they found out about it, or randomly sent some guy to do cable stuff, that hive would have been destroyed (and probably not in a humane way or anything that would have benefitted the environment) instantly. So we were able to find someone who rehomes bees to come and safely take it away intact and save it right away.

So besides starting a hive, which I can’t do, what *can* I do? I have been thinking about it for days.

My answer came today when I was swimming- a little bee was trying very hard to get through the screen on the lanai to get to a sunflower I’ve got growing in the container garden. The gardening gears in my brain started spinning and I realized *that* was my answer- a garden dedicated to nothing but sunflowers. Just a whole cluster of them that I could maintain and keep growing, so there was always a bunch of them blooming and ready for anything that might be interested in them.

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sunflower @ naples botanical garden

There’s a little square of land on the side of our house that has nothing on it- no grass, no pipes, no pool equipment, no air conditioner, no septic tank access. It’s in bright sunlight all day with sand covered in rocks, so nothing will grow there. However, there is a hose spigot nearby, so water is available.

I asked Tom about the possibility of putting in a raised bed over there and putting together a little irrigation system for it. Sunflower roots can be a little aggressive, but I have seen them grow well in a shallow, wide containers, so we should be okay on that front.

As far as what sunflowers to grow, I do know a bit after my big sunflower phase last summer, but I did a little research. I’m not interested in what the flowers look like (well, besides the fact I love sunflowers), I just want them to be a good source of pollen. It looks like the best sunflower for bees is Lemon Queen, which I have had success growing before.

After doing more research online, I found The Backyard Bee Count, which is “the
world’s largest citizen science project focused on pollinator conservation”. They say

“You can participate by growing some pollinator friendly plants in your yard and then recording how many pollinators vist them. We suggest planting: Sunflowers (preferably, Lemon Queen), Bee balm, Cosmos, Tickseed, or Purple coneflower. In 2013, we will start accepting pollinator counts from any species of plant and will not just focus on bees. Start thinking now about what you’d like to do in your green spaces!”

I’m so excited! This is a great opportunity to get involved in something important and meaningful using something I already have quite a bit of- plants. And if I can actually help the bee population by growing more of a plant I love, it’s a total win-win situation.

So, here commences “Project Bee”! We probably won’t start doing the beds until March because we have a few things coming up this month, but in the meantime I’m going to grow some sunflowers in containers and put them around the exterior of the house. I do have a Lemon Queen that I planted back in autumn that is FINALLY about to bloom, so that should last a little while. Hopefully the bees will find it.

Comments 3

  1. Misti wrote:

    There are lots of plants that attract bees. Right now the bees are on a very nice smelling plant that is blooming on the opposite side of our fence….but nowhere near our peach blooms.

    Plant it and they will come! 🙂

    Posted 08 Feb 2013 at 8:28 am
  2. Jolene wrote:

    How interesting! I love purple coneflower and that was on the list from the Bee Count page. I wish I had more space for sun flowers, but I don’t so maybe I’ll work on adding more coneflower to my gardens!

    Posted 10 Feb 2013 at 8:44 pm
  3. Curtis wrote:

    The bees around here love tickseed (Coreopsis). You can buy transplants at most nurseries.

    Posted 11 Feb 2013 at 8:39 pm

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