City hives and meadows instead of a lawn

Excessively building up cities does not bring us any benefit – neither in terms of aesthetics, nor comfort, and even less in terms of the protection of nature and many species of insects and animals. Fortunately, the trend is reversing and more and more often, instead of concrete squares and ordinary lawns, cities are choosing flower meadows and apiaries. While enjoying the first rays of sunshine, consider these options around your office.

Have bees and be happy

If we work like bees in office buildings, why not have them as companions? For example, on the roof. Such solutions are more and more often found not only in Paris or New York, but also in Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław and many other Polish cities. This is important because for several years we have been observing a sharp decline in the number of bees in the world. There are 16 percent fewer of them each year in Poland alone. And without them, we humans cannot survive.

Do bees like the city?

Yes, contrary to appearances, they feel very good in them. Firstly, they are not exposed to poisonous chemicals spraying crops in agricultural areas, and the higher air temperature in winter makes it easier for them to survive. In addition, they can coexist with townspeople without making their lives difficult. The latter can only benefit from their presence in the city. It is not only an opportunity to obtain honey, but also a benefit for allotment gardeners – bees from nearby apiaries pollinate their plants, thanks to which they have more and more attractive vegetables and fruits. Apart from this, beekeepers from cities have the opportunity to pursue their hobbies basically in their place of residence.

Urban bees and health

Honey from urban bees is as healthy as that from rural bees. The fears of environmental pollution are completely unfounded. The bee, thanks to its extremely sensitive receptors, has the ability to sense pollutants. Apart from this, its life span is too short to store toxins. Above all, however, bees have the ability to filter out any contaminants when converting nectar into honey. Smog, in turn, occurs at the highest concentration in winter, when bees hibernate in hives. The different taste of honey from municipal apiaries is due to the fact that in the city bees obtain nectar from plants other than those in the countryside.

The construction of hives is not that simple

Keeping bees in cities is not easy, but it is also not very difficult. First of all, apiaries may not  be set up just anywhere , because permission to breed bees in the city depends on local regulations. In some, setting up apiaries is even forbidden. Relevant knowledge in the field of biology is also necessary, so lay people should entrust breeding to specialists, e.g. from the Regional Association of Beekeepers. Not every place is suitable for beehives. A compromise has to be found between the comfort of the bees and the safety of the inhabitants. For the sake of humans, the choice of bee species is important. It is important that the bees, and especially their mothers, are of gentle breeds. Aggressive ones can become a source of conflicts with local residents or employees of office buildings, and this would destroy the entire idea. The roof of the building is suitable as long as it is flat, secured against access by third parties and sunny, but not overly sunny, so that the bees have to waste energy on cooling the hive – therefore, tar roofs are not suitable. Ideally, the place is also slightly shaded. In addition, it must be sheltered from the wind and not very mobile, as bees like peace. Bees must also be able to obtain food, so there should be a meadow, park and gardens nearby.

Not only for bees

Meadows are associated with non-urban spaces, while more and more cities decide to use them in their space. There is a place for them practically everywhere – in parks and squares, on lanes by roads, tracks, in front of or on buildings and public utilities and office buildings, because they can be sown on balconies, terraces and even on roofs. Flower meadows do not only provide unique aesthetic values ​​for the city, but also lower the costs of maintaining greenery than in the case of lawns. The plants used for growing meadows are resistant to water deficit and still retain their beautiful appearance even in drought. Keeping meadows instead of lawns in cities also has a beneficial effect on our health, because they naturally purify the air. Some meadow plants have the ability to reduce smog. 1 m2 of meadow is able to catch the same amount of dust as a small tree and, more importantly, it does not return it to the soil with the rain. Plants used for growing meadows produce more oxygen than grasses and intensely moisturize the air, and this combined with their height (from 30 cm to even 2 m) translates into a lower air temperature. The one in the meadow can be approx. 10° C lower than in the lawn and by approx. 20° C lower than in places covered with concrete! Isn’t that what we dream about on summer days, when the heat is pouring down from the sky and it’s hard to live in the city? Finally, a flower meadow is a food source for bees and other pollinators. In addition, it can be home to about 300 species of useful animals, incl. frogs, hedgehogs and many species of birds.

Red poppies in the city

Meadows can be annual or perennial. The first ones will please the eye with their colors the same year, but the plants will have to be sown again the following spring. Perennials, on the other hand, will not bloom immediately, but from the next spring they will bloom with wonderful colors for the next several seasons. Annual meadows should be sown in spring, when air temperatures have already reached a constant positive level and the amount of rainfall increases. It is not too early, however, to protect them from the negative effects of frosts and not to be dominated by grasses and weeds, because these start to germinate at lower temperatures (unless the meadow is to consist of segetal weeds, e.g. cornflower cornflowers, field weeds, poppies) . In the case of a dry spring, the meadow should be watered regularly at the beginning. A perennial meadow can be sown throughout the growing season, but the best seasons are spring and autumn due to the appropriate soil moisture that such a meadow requires in the initial period.

What about meadows on terraces, balconies and roofs? In this case, meadows with the so-called “rolls”, i.e. – grasses – are sown on specially prepared vegetation mats that can be spread over any surface. If using a mat is not an option, pots can be used as well.

Beauty without effort

Mowing the meadows once or twice a year is sufficient – unlike a lawn which requires mowing around twenty times. One of these times is the end of the growing season when the plants will fade and produce seeds. More frequent mowing is used only in the case of perennial meadows and only when they have become weeded (annual meadows are weeded by hand). Watering should be done only when there is a very large drought, which is rather unlikely in a meadow. The cost of establishing and maintaining a meadow is therefore several times lower than the cost of maintaining a lawn, which must be mowed at least twenty times and watered regularly. Less mowing also means less exhaust from mowers or wasted electricity.

We strongly support all pro-ecological activities. Our partners are already using the above solutions, and we had the opportunity to taste honey from apiaries at the West Forum in Wrocław and GreenWings in Warsaw. It tastes absolutely delicious. And most importantly, we did so during lunch, on a blanket spread out on a colorful meadow.