Ah yes, fall – a time where we all bask in the glory of our favorite sports team, watch in awe as the leaves change colors and, let’s not forget, engorge on delicacies that carry the label “pumpkin spice.”
While these activities can take up a fair amount of your time this season, that doesn’t mean your garden should get the cold shoulder! Bees are still busy getting ready for winter, and they want to emerge healthy in the spring as much as we want to indulge in the beauty of fall. So, here are five fall-approved tips to take full advantage of your gardening time, as well as ensure your garden is in prime condition next spring to Feed a Bee.
- Time your planting
Before you begin gardening, you must first understand when to plant. The goal is to make sure vegetables are ready to harvest before the really cold weather arrives, so selecting crops with the shortest time to maturity is absolutely crucial when planting in the fall. Use a calendar to count back from the date of the average first frost for your area, and match that to the number of days to maturity for each fast-growing vegetable you want to plant. Some plants, like wildflowers, are adapted to germinate and establish a crown and root system as the weather begins to cool. Additionally, these plants may overwinter as a small rosette of leaves, benefitting from the abundant moisture during the winter.
- Prepare the soil
Because leftover debris from spring gardens can harbor diseases, it is important to remove the residue and old mulch, along with summer weed growth, as soon as possible before preparing your soil for fall planting. To help, you can amend your soil with what you already have on hand: kitchen compost, dead leaves, old pine straw and the like are excellent examples. After incorporating any organic matter, a soil test is a good idea if you didn’t have one in the spring. You may want to apply manure or 10-10-10 fertilizer before tilling to a depth of at least six to eight inches.
- Replace part of your lawn with flowering plants
Standard lawns – unless they have flowering weeds in them – don’t provide optimal forage for bees. This fall, try seeding your remaining grass with bee-friendly clover, and partition a section of your lawn for dandelions come spring because they are the first abundant food source for bees emerging from winter hibernation. Bees need pollen and nectar from blooms produced by trees, bushes, annuals and perennials, vegetables, and herbs. Without them, your food crops may not bloom to full maturity in the winter, which can help the bees that emerge on those warmer days keep your garden crops pollinated.
- Conserve your water
If you like to grow herbs like lavender, rosemary and thyme, this tip is perfect for you. With the cooler weather, fall is the perfect time to begin watering early in the morning to reduce evaporation in your garden. Adding layers of mulch is also a bonus; not only does it reduce evaporation, but it also helps retain nutrients found in the soil. Also, consider installing a drip irrigation system so you can target water flow and save some more water in the process!
- Cover is your best friend
While honey bees live in hives and colonies, many other types of bees have different habitat requirements. During the fall, bees like to nest in fairly untidy places like unkempt hedges, weedy spots and bare, sandy patches. Don’t be afraid to leave a few untidy spots at the edges of your landscape or add nesting blocks or boxes for tunnel- and cavity-dwelling bees. You can even show your creativity and build the bee blocks yourself! Not only will these spots help bees pollinate your food crops during the fall season, but they will also have a dedicated habitat in a time where forage is lacking: a win-win for all parties involved!
Fall gardening doesn’t have to be a chore. With these tips, your garden will be in tip-top shape this fall, and you may even have a shorter to-do list in the spring. What’s not to love?