Keep the bees healthy and happy with 'no mow May'

Joseph Bulmer

Now that we are in the month of May, we should be traditionally thinking about planting seeds and young plants outdoors.

This year, however, is unprecedented in that there is still an element of ice cold wind to wrestle with.

It has been a good few weeks since I saw my first bumble bee drunkenly searching for pollen among the hellebores and early-flowering plants.

He was a big bear of a bee making a sound like an unattended phone in silent mode.

While he was bouncing from flower to flower giving each daisy or tulip a kiss, I remembered having a packet of bee friendly seed mix that I really must plant when/if the weather gets warm enough.

I optimistically bought it late last year and then forgot  all about it.

This year, I am determined to set aside at least a small portion of the plot to grow flowers with colour, large flat landing spaces and those with an abundance of nectar and pollen.

Two of the biggest nectar factories are Phacelia and Borage. Plant these near to the house and you can sit indoors if you have to and watch the magic of bee air traffic control systems take their turn to take only what they need.

There are, of course, other flowers with these properties and you can buy ready made seed mixes to save you cash and time.

I'm planning to dig over a small oblong patch where I've seen the bees hanging out looking bored.

There’s plenty of protection from the wind and it's in full sun.

It will need clearing of weeds and then raking to what we call a fine tilth which is gardeners secret code for a breadcrumb-like surface.

This way it's easier for the seeds to make contact with the soil to germinate and set their roots down.

You don’t want big clods of earth as you then get air pockets that the roots won’t be able to travel through.

Once you've covered the seeds with a sprinkling of soil you will just need to keep watering regularly and keep pulling out the annoying weeds as soon as they start to poke their heads above ground.

As these plants tend to be annuals then they are resilient and once they've started to establish you can leave them alone and just enjoy the colour, scent and the dancing bees.

Other flowers in this category include Cosmos, Calendula, Larkspur and the silk blouse that is the California Poppy.

What is in vogue now is the wild meadow lawn and I’ve even heard the tricky to say term  ‘No Mow May’ as an initiative to keep the bees healthy and happy.

Leaving the lawn to grow wild will produce more nectar and pollen for bees and insects while broadcasting bee-friendly seed mix across the lawn or part of it will have them all in rapture.

You still have time to donate a small patch to the bees or even the whole lawn if you have one.

Being the tentative type I have started with the small oblong to see how the spray of colour might look across the lawn before going all in.

I can visualise a sway of colour at different heights from the egg-yolk poppies to the tall and slender cosmos in pure white and deep pink shades.

When the flowers are in full bloom around mid July, not only will you have a feast for the eyes, you can also feel smug that you’ve done your bit for the bee economy.

While I’d like to try bee keeping, I think this is bee-keeping lite.

Always one to find an extra dimension, I intend to pop the azure blue, star-shaped borage flower into ice cube trays for a touch of sophistication in my fizzy water or my wife’s often large gin and tonic.