Monday, 15 September 2014

Bees and the Vegie Patch

Image - Mick Shaw Photography

Without bees in our gardens many of our vegetables and fruit would never get to the harvest stage. You may have known of folk who have had to manually pollinate members of the pumpkin family because there haven't been any bees available to do the job. These all have separate male and female flowers and, unless the pollen gets carried from the male to the female, there is no chance that the cucumber, pumpkin or zucchini will ever develop. 

A sure fire way of getting this pollination happening is to introduce flowers to your vegie patch to attract the bees. The bees are not really interested in helping the flowers - they are selfish in that they are just wanting the nectar that the flowers produce, therefore pollination is really just incidental.

Apart from attracting bees into our vegie patches the flowers add a visual enhancement as well. Some really good bee-attracting flowers that can be incorporated are coloured yellow, purple, blue or white. Red doesn't do it for bees, this is the colour for attracting birds.

Nasturtiums are really terrific as they attract the bees and both the leaves and flowers can be included in salads. A fast-growing annual, with pale green, umbrella-shaped leaves and long stems. The flowers are produced in summer and autumn and come in all sorts of shades of orange, red and yellow. There are trailing and busy types with single, semi-double or double flowers so there should be one to suit your vegie patch.

Alyssum is a gorgeous frothy inclusion with its profusion of fragrant white flowers. Its hardiness and versatility makes it just right for vegie gardens as it can spill over the sides of raised beds. Alyssum will thrive in either sun or semi-shade and germination is faster and more uniform if seed is only barely covered, so broadcast thinly into the garden position, firm down and moisten.

If you have a little corner where you can plant a salvia, especially any blue flowering ones these are real bee magnets.There are many different types of blue salvias, you might prefer to plant one that doesn't take up too much room in your vegie garden.


Sometimes it might be a good idea to allow some of your salad vegies/herbs run to flower. Basil will flower quickly here on the Coffs Coast in summer and there are many different coloured flowers - white, pink and mauve.

Rocket is a real ripper of a salad leaf and also its flower is fantastic for attracting bees.

If you wish to attract native bees good plants to encourage them to stay in your garden could be (not necessarily your vegie patch as they are generally too big are):

Abelia grandiflora, Angophora, Baeckea, Buddleja davidii, Callistemon, Eucalyptus, Grevillea hybrids, Hardenbergia violacea, Lavandula, Leptospermum, Melaleuca and Westringia.

Native bees do the job of pollinating just as well as the honey bee, so it might be worthwhile to encourage them to stay in your garden.

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