From the dirt to our plate; the trials and realities of first-time farm ownership

Bring On The Bees!

     I’ve always known the importance of having bees to fertilize our crops in the garden but until now I didn’t realize how much I value the little buggers.  Our new homestead garden is HUGE and it will greatly benefit from having a robust local bee population.

     In the past I regularly fertilized my own garden. Being as close as we were to town, there just wasn’t that many bees to pollinate my garden naturally. It became habit to shake here, brush there, or pop a pollen loaded anther/stamen and place it close to a sticky stigma. In some cases, as is the case for zucchini, male and female flowers are separate and have a more difficult time fertilizing without the help of bees or human involvement. You get the drift, it was a lot of work on my part to ensure a harvest.  
     Now that we are basically living in the middle of a field I’ve noticed a substantial change in the number of bees on our property. In North Dakota we have plenty of bee boxes brought in from out of state. The bees create honey for the honey distributor and in return our fields get fertilized. This is partially the cause for increased bee numbers in our yard but the other reason is a direct result of the plants we have on our property.


     As early spring hit we had apple blossoms galore along with plums, cherries, crab apple, dandelions, iris, peonies, roses and lilac bushes in bloom. As we creep into summer more flowers are cropping up to replace those pittering off from spring. We have raspberries, hydrangea, lilies, nearby field crop as well as our own garden.


     My point here is that we always have bee attractant available. Although it has yet to be proven, I think this year’s garden is going to be amazing; a naturally occurring reproductive success. I plan to let the honey bees do their thing with no intervening.   


     I even went a step farther and planted some ‘from seed’ marigolds in our garden. They should be in bloom when our garden is ready for the bees to do their job. Even if they aren’t a bee favorite, the color will bring them in close enough to detect the other flowering veggies in our garden.


     Do you have issues with reduced production in your garden? If you are like me you might initially think it’s the lack of water or fertilizer. While this could be the case, one other item to consider is the degree of pesticide use either directly in your yard or your neighbor’s.  

     The yard portion of our property ranges anywhere from 5-10 acres. Bugs can be a bother due to a small marsh area on another 10 acres of our homestead. We keep the bug spray either on our person or solely around the perimeter of the house and deck. This makes grilling out in the evening bearable without effecting the bug and bee population in the remainder of the yard and garden.


     So, go out there, plant some attractive plants to bring those bees to your yard in the spring AND the summer. Be mindful of the good bugs and be a bit more tolerant of the pesky bugs that live along side them. You might just see more food on your plate at harvest season!

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