The world’s bees are in serious trouble. They are disappearing by the colony and, without them, the world is somewhat doomed. Bees pollinate quite a large percentage of the plant-based food we eat.
In addition to using our votes and voices to battle agro-chemical companies and the government officials bought by their lobbying, there is also a grassroots effort to help bees by providing hives and diverse, flowering plants from which they can collect pollen. Some of these plants could be ornamental, but some should definitely be food-producing.
After all, we need bees in the vegetable garden. Luckily, if we plant the right stuff to get them there, the results are almost inevitable: bees will be saved, and we’ll keep eating. It is monocropped fields, a broken apiculture system, and pesticides that are causing the big problems. As individuals, this is one time we can definitely help, and bees will help us in return.
Here’s what to plant in the veggie patch to get the bees there.
Berries of all varieties — including the classics like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries — attract bees. They also make great garden additions. Most can either work as borders surrounding an area, a sort of living fence, or hedges separating up different garden beds. They can help breaking up the wind, providing perennial habitat for useful animals and giving loads of food.
Melons and Squashes
Melons, squashes, and cucumbers are closely related, and they all are in cahoots with bees. They send out sprawling, climbing vines and entice with big, beautiful flowers. The bees, in turn, pollinate the flowers so that we get to eat delicious cucumbers, melons, and squashes. Additionally, these plants create great ground covers for other plants, like beans and corn.
When possible, it’s a good idea to put in permanent plants around the veggie patch. It helps to keep life around when the annual veggies aren’t growing. Stone fruits — peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries — have a great selection of dwarf trees to choose from, and they’ll really help to make gardens more productive year-round. Plus, bees — just like neighbors — love them. Fresh fruit is also always a welcome site in a kitchen.
Beans and Peas
The legume family is a friend to all gardeners, as its members often fix nitrogen in the soil, acting as a sort of natural fertilizer for other plants. Beans and peas, with choices for both hot and cool weather, also delight bees as they have alluring flowers. In other words, this is a win-win-win. The garden gets a boost, bees get some pollen, and we get legumes, one of many answers as to where the protein is coming from.
Nightshades: Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant
The nightshade family gets a bad rap for having dubious members with dubious characteristics, whispers of poison whistling on the wind. However, some are amongst our most popular and vitamin-rich veggies as well. What’s more is that tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants bring in the bees. Seriously, who doesn’t want these additions to their veggie patch?
Apples and Pears
Getting back to the idea of perennials in the garden, apples and pears can either come in dwarf varieties, mid-sized (like sedans) or towering giants. Whichever seems suitable for the space available, eventually apple and pear trees provide pounds upon pounds of food. They also attract bees to the garden, which helps to not just pollinate the apples and pears, but the rest of the produce to boot.
Herbs tend to flower, and flowers tend to attract bees. While many herbs — basil, mint, rosemary, etc. — are used to repel insects, no one sent bees the message. In fact, they love these herbs, as well as sage, thyme, dill, and chives. All of these are amazing for our health. But, there are also other great herbaceous garden additions, not necessarily culinary in nature, though some are edible, to attract bees: comfrey, borage, lavender, and lemon balm, to name but a few. Many herbs are either perennial or self-seeding, so they are great, easy-going and super useful pieces in gardens.
Get this collection in the ground, and not only will the cupboards be full for much of the year (all of it if the dehydrator and canning equipment get going), but the bees will keep coming back for more. This is one of those times when doing the environment some good is really of great, immediate benefit to us.
Image source: Andrei Seleznev/Shutterstock