Heirloom Gardener Blogs > Barefoot and Dirty

Birds and Bees...

February is quickly coming to a close. Spring is around the corner. I’m convinced the groundhog they used this year was defective, though, as we have only had 3 cold days all winter. We have spent the winter months in shorts with our windows open. The balmy weather has allowed us to enjoy more outside work time than usual this winter, so we have several projects underway. We are currently incubating 2 dozen duck eggs. My husband brought home a 330 gallon tank to expand our rainwater harvesting efforts. My husband built two beehives and ordered the bees to go in them to be delivered sometime next month. Our efforts at increased sustainability continue.

Now, bees are something we’ve been wanting to add for years. The pollination benefits alone are worth the effort. However, the prospect of fresh honey and beeswax from our own bees is nothing short of amazing. My husband has done his research and procured the necessary equipment, and now he waits for his bees. In the meantime, I am once again channeling my inner plant nerd to devise a way to finagle yet another new garden bed: a pollinator garden.

While my husband has been researching the bees, I have been researching the bee-friendly plants. Honestly, he had to have seen it coming. Anyway, I have learned many new and interesting facts about bees and their relationships with plants. For one, our native wildflowers are rich sources of nectar for foraging bees. I couldn’t have picked a project more near and dear to my heart. While earning my horticulture degree, my emphasis was in natural resource management and my research was on non-native invasives and their effects on local ecology. Needless to say, I’m all over the idea of dedicating a portion of our land to native plants.

We have located a good sunny location for the hives between the herb gardens and the vegetable gardens. We are building a good sturdy platform to put the hives on. Once we set that in the ground, we’ll clear a swath of ground all the way around it about 3 feet wide. There will be stepping stones leading to the front of the hives, and a shallow birdbath between them on the platform for water. The cleared ground will be planted with masses of native wildflowers.

Now, there are a good many herbs that are bee-friendly, and I will make sure to plant them all in the herb garden. You can never have too many herbs, I always say. Lavender, lemon balm, borage, sage, savory, rosemary, dill, thyme and basil are all attractive to bees. Of course, we have the vegetable garden and fruit trees, as well. However, the native wildflowers are something to which I am truly looking forward. I love wildflowers, particularly sunflowers which are my favorites.

Texas has so many beautiful wildflowers that it will be difficult to choose, and I’m already predicting that a three foot path may not be big enough by the time I’m through. However, it will make a good start. I also intend to plant my wildflowers with consideration for blooming times to make sure there is something blooming all year. So let’s begin with winter…

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Dutch White Clover

During the winter, my yard is full of the Dutch white clover and wild allium. These are plants that attract bees. I may plant some crimson clover, as well. As winter fades into spring, the Texas bluebonnets, spiderwort, pink evening primroses, and Hinckley’s golden columbine begin blooming. The primrose blooms on into summer, but as the others taper off and summer begins, the Texas lantana, sunflowers and little yellow zexmenia daisies burst into bloom. Butterfly weed also puts forth its yellow and orange blossoms which last well into fall. Also in fall, we have goldenrod that turns the fields to gold. For most of the year, the almond verbena perfumes the air with its white flowers and the beautiful hibiscus are covered with flowers.

Oenothera

Evening Primrose

Yes, I’m looking forward to the arrival of our newest family members, both ducks and bees, but I’m also looking forward to filling at least a portion of my yard with the beautiful natives of Texas.

Here is my recipe for honey cookies:

Honey Cookies

Ingredients:

• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup butter
• 1 cup honey
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 4 cups flour
• 1 tsp. ground ginger

Directions:

1. In a saucepan over low heat, melt together sugar, butter and honey. Let cool.

2. In mixing bowl, mix together eggs, vanilla, soda and ginger. Gradually add to cooled honey mixture.

3. Slowly add flour. Stir until well-blended. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees until golden (about 12-15 minutes).