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BBC Radio 2’s Big Bee Challenge: George Hassall shares bee-friendly garden tips

Zoe Ball has announced BBC Radio 2’s Big Bee Challenge, a children’s competition which aims to promote pollination and support bees.

The BBC is asking for children to express their creativity and imagination by designing their own bright and buzzy garden that will attract bees, and other pollinating insects, to help pollinate flowers whilst also creating new ones too.

Built by the RHS, the winner will see their garden design come to life at a children and young people’s mental health NHS Trust site. They will be invited to open the garden at an outside broadcast of The Zoe Ball Breakfast on Friday 20 August 2021.

Helen Bostock, RHS Senior Horticultural Advisor, said: “With bees and other pollinators in decline, the Big Bee Challenge is a brilliant opportunity to raise awareness among Radio 2’s millions of listeners about why these fascinating creatures are so important and what people can do to help them. If enough gardeners do their bit for bees, together we can make a huge difference.”

We hope that the competition will inspire children to take an interest in nature, learn how we can all play a part in helping wildlife and try their hand at some gardening. If given the chance, a love of gardening and nature discovered when young, often stays with people for life.”

The competition has been announced in light of the concerning global bee decline. As crucial, hard-working insects in our ecosystem, bees are essential in keeping the planet healthy.

Where trees are critical to filter our air, bees are essential to both pollinate the food we need to survive and pollinate the many trees and flowers that provide habitats for wildlife.

The most destructive effects impacting on the decline come from habitat loss, climate change, pesticides, and an increase in urban development, which all in all, are contributing to the loss of nature.

We spoke to RHS Young Ambassador and award-winning young gardener, George Hassall, to find out more.

Why is this competition important?

For me, this competition helps to raise awareness about the importance bees play in our eco system; they help to pollinate plants that create the food we eat, but they need our help, habitat loss, climate change, pesticides have all affected numbers, this competition could literally, help to save the bees!

Can you give us some top tips for creating a bee friendly garden?

Bees need pollinating plants, shrubs and flowers, that are nectar rich throughout the seasons. In our garden:

Spring – pulmonaria that flowers really early and we’ve got loads of crocus and hellebores.

Summer – right now the rowan blossom is literally humming with life. There’s tons of stuff around that the bees are crazy for, like comfrey, red hot poker, poppies and our new fav, agastache.

Autumn – ivy is just the bees knees for insects and we have Michaelmas daisies, which are fab come late autumn.

We sow native wildflowers from seed and plant certain varieties for specific bees, like foxgloves for bees with long tongues.  I call some areas of our garden ‘organised chaos’, where stuff like dandelions and comfrey are left to grow wild.

There’s a whole range of perfect for pollinators to choose from in your garden design, just have a search online.

Create lots of different types of habitats, from bee hotels to holes in walls for solitary bees. Place bee boxes in a south-facing spot but not in direct sunlight. Also make sure the entrance points downwards so that rain doesn’t get in, those kinds of details give bees a buzz.

DON’T USE PESTICIDES – I hate pesticides, as much as fake lawns!

How do you think this competition will help encourage the younger generation into gardening? And why is this important?

If we all could make small changes to help bees in our garden or on our window bottom it would make a massive difference. Competitions like this are brilliant at inspiring children to discover a new hobby, passion and love for the natural world. I started gardening aged 4, my Mum started a community gardening group and I joined in. My Dad also started the landscaping on our overgrown garden at the same time. At school we had a gardening club and it got me out of the stuffy classroom. You see, gardening gets me closer to nature and that’s my bag. Now I’ve left school and thinking of my future, I’m thinking of gardening as a job. There’s all sorts of ways you can go with gardening from science to art, from cooking to landscaping, it’s just so diverse. That’s why competitions like this are so important, they make you think about the wider world and how we can protect it!

Entries are for children aged 6-12, and the competition close at 6pm on Monday 5 July. The winner will revealed on-air on Thursday 19 August.

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