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BTS – Bee Garden

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Recently in the Herbal Circle, we were all showing the area we have to work with for our gardens. I shared the photo below but not the fight I have been having.

Let’s give you the background so that everyone knows what the deal is with the Bee Garden, how it came to be, and where it stands.

floer bed being cleaned out
Feverfew Bed Photograph by Athena Herder

This is a 40’x80′ area in our front side yard (we live on an acre), when we moved in we were not sure what we were going to do with this space but it wasn’t long before Duncan decided he wanted bees. Since the backyard is dog only area the bees couldn’t go back there and we like to play yard games in the front yard but this side yard was perfect, it will hold four or more hives.

Clover Bed Photograph by Athena Herder

We started cleaning up the area and planning out where the beds would be and what we would grow in them; I love to plan. The first year we got it cleaned up and some of the beds were marked with sticks and string and got a hive with bees.

Yarrow & Valerian Bed Photograph by Athena Herder

The hive was a normal stacking hive like you see most places, I should know what they are called but I don’t remember. The bees are really Duncan’s deal, not mine so I don’t pay attention to things like hive names. Anyways, we got the bees in the spring and everything seems great until late July or August when we noticed bugs. Again, I’m not the beekeeper so if your hoping for real terms here let me know and I’ll see if I can get Duncan to answer for us.

Chamomile & Calendula Bed Photograph by Athena Herder

We clean up the bugs and hope for the best but we lose this battle and the bees; we are crushed. The work on the garden layout continued. Bricks replaced the sticks and slowly I started planting seeds in all the beds. There is no water out to this area of the yard unless you use a 400 ft hose and then you get little pressure. We manage to keep the area cleaned and watered all through the spring, summer, fall, and winter; nothing we planted grew.

Butterfly Bush Bed Photograph by Athena Herder

That was a hard year. The next year we decided to make a horizontal beehive and get another batch of bees. We loaded them into the hive and watched them flourish through the seasons. The garden again didn’t fare so well, it did better but not great. We had echinacea, anise hyssop, lemon balm, and maybe a thing or two more come up.

Indian Blanket & St. John’s Wort Bed Photograph by Athena Herder

This is when I notice that the only thing that is growing are plants that were “mature” when we put them in the ground, nothing from seeds planted. This is also about the time I realize one of the issues I’m having with planting from seed; animals.

Lemon Balm & Lemon Verbena Bed Photograph by Athena Herder

As I start watching the garden area more closely I notice that the wildlife doesn’t go into the garden area it is the neighborhood pets that I’m having issues with. What are neighborhood pets? They are the pets that are owned by your neighbors but are free-range, as in they go where ever they like, doing whatever they like, wherever they like, and the neighbors don’t give a crap if it’s in your yard causing destruction.

Bee Balm Bed Photograph by Athena Herder

So, currently, we have about 3-5 cats, all with collars and owned that use the garden as a catbox and dig all over it, needless to say, they aren’t afraid of humans so nothing you do to keep wildlife away works on them. Oh, and now there is also a flock of guinea hens too, those are even worse. They dig and peck all over and needless to say, all the seeds I put out are gone.

Guinea Hens leaving the Bee Garden Photograph by Athena Herder

Anyways, back to the story, once I noticed the animal issue, we decided we can only put plants out instead of seeds so I got a greenhouse to start seeds that way. I tried a flat of things in the greenhouse and some things grew but nothing I planted or at least nothing that looked like what I planted, but then again the greenhouse started getting holes in it within a few months of being up.

Toothache Plant Photograph by Athena Herder

On the good side, the bees made it through that year and this past spring we collected about 2-3 gallons from them. Since the seeds still didn’t work in the greenhouse we purchased a few plants from the native plant sale and put them in with the idea that I would figure out the seed thing over the winter. Everything we planted did great at least for a few months, then we lost Calendula and Chamomile. Since this has happened before with other plants I didn’t care since they tend to die the first year we put them in and come back strong the next year.

Violet & Feverfew Photograph by Athena Herder

That brings us to now. The bees are doing great, we had a scare a week ago when it was cold but they are doing well. We plan to open the hive in March or April to take the first batch of honey this year. At about the same time we will be getting another batch of bees to put in the next hive.

Goldenrod Photograph by Athena Herder

As for the garden, I got an AeroGarden recently and started playing with it to see if I can start seeds in it and then move them out to the garden. If so, that is a slow process but at least things will grow. The pictures in this post are from this past year in the garden.

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