index.aspxAs Tennyson had it, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Well, around our house, that’s “thoughts of gardens.” In light of the rapid approach of spring on the 20th, it’s once again time to finish up (or start, for procrastinators) plans for what to plant this year. With that in mind, I present you with Victory Gardens for Bees: A DIY Guide to saving the Bees by Lori Weidenhammer.

As you probably know, there’s a crisis in the bee world. Over one-third of edible crops and three-quarters of flowering plants are pollinated by bees, and honeybees and most other bees are in drastic decline. At least four native species of bees have become extinct, and over fifty others are endangered. Why is this happening? Answers are complicated, but include climate change (which alters the timing of blooms so that they no longer coincide with bee needs), pesticides, habitat loss and parasites. Obviously, some of these things are out of the average person’s control, but we can help provide food and habitat for bees in our own yards. This book aims to help people do just that while also providing nice gardens for ourselves.The concept of a Victory Garden goes back to wartime and helping the war effort by growing food for one’s own household to free up resources for the war effort. The author has carried the concept over to helping in the “war” to help the bees survive and thrive.

Let us begin with the bees themselves. Most of us probably just think about honeybees (when we think of bees at all), but there are over 4,000 known bee species in North America alone! That does not, by the way, include honeybees. They are native to Europe. Not all bees make honey or live in hives, but all are pollinators, so all are important. There are pictures and information on a number of bees here, and tips for how you can help each of them in your yard whether for food or habitat. If you have trouble growing a lush lawn, you may be happy to know that one way to help a number of species of bees is to leave bare patches of ground because they nest in the ground and prefer it grass-free. Once you have gotten your fill of bee species information, you can move on to the enormous information on bee-friendly plants.

There are numerous seasonal charts of plants both for nectar and pollen. Perennials, shrubs, trees, meadow/pasture, natives, vegetables, herbs, plants “with benefits” (those that attract other beneficial insects, deter pests, are edible, etc.), and “weeds to leave” (“I’m not lazy—I leave dandelions for the bees!”) are all charted here. The charts are very detailed and useful, including hardiness zones, whether native or not, blooming period, what bees (and other beneficial insects) are attracted to them, heights and various plant notes.

Also included are a number of adaptable planting designs to help make attractive as well as useful landscapes. Whether you have a small patch to plant or acres and acres, you can find useful designs here. There are lots of photos of plants as well as bees, the aforementioned charts and designs, and the layout is varied and very attractive. I’d say this is an excellent resource for anyone interested in giving the bees a helping hand. By the way, if you are interested in perhaps providing a home for bees of your own (and getting some honey out of the deal), we also have a number of books on beekeeping to round out your education on bees. Buzz on in and check them out! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself).