This post is part of a sponsored home garden program from Monsanto called “Hey Let’s Grow.” All experiences and opinions are mine. Follow fellow gardeners (of all experience levels) and the program with hashtag #HeyLetsGrow
If you’ve been following along with my gardening adventures you’re probably pretty impressed that I planted seeds, raised some baby plants, put them in the ground, and harvested some vegetables! If you haven’t been following along, let me catch up you with a few things I’ve learned in my gardening adventures this year.
Gardening is hard.
If you garden, you probably know this. If you’re me, you forgot that most things that are worthwhile require some work. In this case, work AND knowledge.
Gardening doesn’t do well with a “plant and pray” approach.
I’ve had to learn about soil composition, fertilizer, competing crops, pest management, and more. And as you might have guessed, I’ve learned about it the hard way.
Gardening requires a lot of bugs.
Yep. I used to work for an entomologist. I know how important bugs are to the ecosystem. And now I know which bugs are good and which bugs are bad when it comes to gardening (I’m intimately familiar with the squash vine borer now. We are mortal enemies.)
Gardening teaches your kids some pretty awesome things.
My son Evan has been helping me every step of the way and when we pulled in our latest harvest, he must have said about 10 times, “I can’t believe we grew this!” That’s made the whole things worthwhile.
Even better is that I’ve gotten him to understand the importance of some things we just don’t like.
When he was younger, he inadvertently stepped on a yellow jacket nest and was subsequently stung. It has scarred him (maybe for life). He has an absolute phobia of all flying insects and is convinced they will all sting him.
I was proud of him, though, for recognizing the importance of bees as necessary pollinators for our garden.
While honey bees do a lot of the work of pollination, there are other native bees (over 400 in Maryland) that are just an important. In order to encourage these mostly solitary bees to nest nearby and help our plants and flowers, we spent a little time this summer making a Bee House out of a milk carton.
Build Your Own Bee House
We’re far from experts. In fact, we used an instructional video to help us craft these bee houses but since the video is no longer online, I hope my steps below help you out!
- Small cardboard tubes and/or construction paper
- Empty milk cartons
- Zip ties
- Duct tape
- Masking tape
We’re lucky in that Monsanto provided us a kit with most of the necessary supplies to get started. In fact, we meant to do it back in June to celebrate National Pollinators Week but you know how summer goes…
Building the Bee House
We set out all our supplies and decide to use the preformed cardboard tubes along with a few colorful tubes made from construction paper.
To make the tubes yourself, simply cut a piece of construction paper in half, roll it tightly around a pencil, add a piece of masking tape, and remove the pencil! The construction paper is quite sturdy and we loved the color it added to our mix.
Once the tubes are prepared, you can make cuts on the ends of the carton, fold them in, and secure with duct tape.
Finally, we packed the tubes into each carton tightly, pushing them all the way to the back of the carton.
Our final step was to decorate the outside of the carton. I primarily wanted to make sure that someone that came across the carton would know what it was and would leave it alone.
And shortly after decorating, we found out that bees don’t like the color black!
Securing the Bee Houses Outside
Because our yard doesn’t have many trees, we looked for a spot in the natural area behind our house. We were looking for a higher branch that was relatively level or slightly sloping. The idea is to use zip ties to secure the houses to the branch with the openings slightly tilted down so that you won’t get any water inside the tubes.
We found spots just down the hill from our garden and hoped we might find a few bee friends making a home out of our house.
It’s been about a month since we hung the bee houses and I checked them today for the first time.
I’m sad to say that our houses are still available for rent but we’re hoping that later in the season or next spring, we’ll provide a safe haven for some of the necessary buzzing friends. And luckily, they’ve withstood many many rainstorms!