Bay-Friendly Living Protects Bees and the Bay
The full force of winter is still upon us, but spring gardening season will be here before we know it. In our Bay-Friendly Living Guide, we give you some yard care tips that will save you money and time, while also saving our precious Narragansett Bay. But many of these same tips will also save the bees that are responsible for the production of more than one-third of all crop production in the United States, including some 90 different types of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. When you think about it that way—that bees are responsible for a lot of the healthy food we eat—saving the bees also means saving ourselves.
We’re happy to share this blog post from Glory Bee about the role honey bees play in our food web and economy talks about the many things home gardeners can do to help. Some, like limiting use of insecticides, planting native flowers that don’t need extra water and fertilizer, and letting your grass and clover grow a little longer before mowing, are also great for Narragansett Bay.
Below is a sneak peak:
Limit your use of insecticides
As a general rule, refrain from using pesticides (including insecticides), herbicides, and other chemicals in your garden or even on your lawn. These chemicals are typically toxic to bees and can even be harmful to your plants in the long run. Even low doses of these chemicals can kill bees who are just trying to forage for food. And when pesticides are inadvertently brought back to the colony, these toxins can infect all the other bees and even the honey. Take note that even “biodegradable” pesticides can harm both bees and humans. Instead, opt for natural pesticides like ladybugs and praying mantises, neem oil, vinegar, epsom salt, or a homemade spray containing pepper, onion, or garlic.
Our Bay-Friendly take: insecticides, along with herbicides and fertilizers, are a major pollution source in the water that runs off our lawns and into storm drains, which eventually run into the Bay untreated. These products add excess nitrogen and phosphorus that contribute to overgrowth of algae and depletion of oxygen in our waters. Those conditions harm marine life, and can harm humans, close beaches, and lead to noxious odors along the coastline.
Don’t be too quick to weed or cut
If you’re an avid gardener, you might hate the sight of weeds infiltrating your lawn or garden — even the flowering ones. But before you get rid of those dandelions and clovers, consider that these alleged undesirables can provide lots of deliciousness for your buzzing visitors. By keeping them right where they are, you’ll be helping your bee friends thrive. The same goes for flowers and vegetables you’ve actually taken the time to plant; if you harvest or deadhead these but leave them intact until all the flowers are completely gone, you’ll be able to support pollinators during their time of need (particularly when other options aren’t readily available).
Our Bay-Friendly take: a healthy lawn is a longer lawn and a lawn with plenty of clover. Clover is a great natural source of nitrogen, so if you have it on your lawn, you need a lot less of it in fertilizer. Longer grass shades the soil beneath it and helps reduce evaporation of moisture, which means your lawn will need less water from sprinklers and irrigation systems. All of this means you spend less time mowing and less money fertilizing and watering, and that means, again, less fertilizer is running off your lawn into the waterways that flow to Narragansett Bay.
Choose plants that bees love
Bees pollinate a wide variety of plants and may visit up to 15,000 flowers in a day’s time. But there are certain ones they really adore. Native wildflowers are a very popular choice, as they’ll thrive in your climate and will be sure to attract local bees. Flowering herbs like lavender, thyme, sage, rosemary, and mint are also excellent options (plus, they’ll make your garden smell incredible and will make sure your meals are flavorful!). Sunflowers, bachelor’s buttons, black-eyed susans, bee balm, goldenrod, coneflower, daisies, calendula, and marigolds are all great, too. Don’t forget about vegetable gardens and fruit trees!
Our Bay-Friendly take: Native wildflowers, such as milkweed, bee balm, New England aster, and goldenrod are well-adapted to our natural habitat here in Southern New England and provide a variety of food for native wildlife. When planted in the right spot, native flowers thrive on just the amount of sunlight and water we get from Mother Nature, and they don’t need fertilizer. And, if we haven’t said it enough, less fertilizer and water means fewer chemical are running off your yard and into the Bay and watershed.