How to Make Your Garden More Bee Friendly
Gardening is a favorite pastime for many people. In addition to growing beautiful plants or food for the family, gardens can help bees too. When you practice bee friendly gardening, you can provide food and shelter for many beneficial insects.
Even small scale gardeners can play a vital role in helping bees and other pollinators. Bees need variety in their diet, you can help in two main ways.
Using plants that bees like and avoiding the use of products harmful to bees. If you have the space, consider building a special garden for just for the bees. But you can make a difference even by implementing bee safe practices in an existing garden.
What is a Bee Friendly Garden?
A bee friendly garden is an outdoor space that has plants and flowers that provide food and habitat for bees. Bees need food in the form of nectar and pollen. A garden that welcomes bees will provide many different types of blooming plants.
In addition, any garden that is managed to benefit bees avoids the use of dangerous chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides that are highly toxic.
Sharing the Garden With Bees
A gardening space that is suitable for bees does not have to be just for our winged friends. Perhaps, it is a quiet space that is designed for your enjoyment. Yet, it is still welcoming and non-harmful to bees and other pollinators.
Having a large variety of insects, butterflies and birds enjoy your garden is a good thing. In most cases, these visitors will not disturb your enjoyment of the area.
If you have someone in the family who is allergic to bee stings, use plants near human walkways that are a bit less attractive to bees. Not every blooming plant have to attract bees.
In fact, there may be times when you wish to have plants that repel bees in the human traffic areas. The rest of the garden space can welcome many different winged pollinators.
Why Are There No Bees in Your Garden?
How many bees visit your garden will depend on your local conditions. Some areas have more pollinator insects than others.
If you live near large commercial agriculture, chemicals used in the field may cause a decline in bees. This is especially true during some times of the growing season.
Honey bee decline in recent years has been tied to an influx of pests and disease. Not as many feral (wild) colonies exist today as did in year past.
And of course, bees need a reason to visit your garden. Do you have plants that offer food for them? Some serious gardeners want to have more pollinators so badly that they even become beekeepers and have their own bee hives.
Attracting Bees to an Existing Garden
If you are planning a new garden just for bees, you are starting with a blank slate. The design and plants chosen will depend on the area you have available and your climate.
But an existing garden can become more bee friendly as well. The two most common practices to attract bees to your garden are:
- plant a wide variety of flowers that attract bees
- use fewer chemicals
Not every flower provides nectar or pollen to feed bees. Plants that do not require bee pollination has no need to attract insects. Choose some plants that are known to have flowers that attract bees by providing the types of food they need.
As you work to encourage more bees to visit your outdoor space limit the use of harsh chemicals. Some pesticides and herbicides are deadly to bees and other foraging insects – read the labels.
This caution also applies to spraying for mosquitos which can harm foraging bees and kill the entire bee colony too!
Bee Garden Design Ideas
A bee garden may be a collection of flower pots or containers sitting on a back porch or a wildflower meadow covering many acres.
No matter the size of your garden, you can make a difference in the lives of area pollinators. A good design regardless of size or shape, will meet the needs of garden visitors.
The top considerations when creating your bee friendly garden space, for honey bees are to provide:
Plant Flowers Bees Love
Some plants provide nectar or pollen or maybe both. But plants that are wind pollinated and do not rely on insects – they have no reason to secrete sweet nectar.
One interesting example is corn. It is common to see bees working corn tassels. While they will collect food from corn, corn is wind pollinated and doesn’t need the bees.
Beyond choosing flowers that attract bees, you should also consider bloom time. Choose a variety of different flowers for bees that bloom through a long season.
Having everything bloom at once and then a long spell with not food is not as helpful as a food source.
When you are choosing plants for the yard, don’t forget larger items. Flowering shrubs can provide habitat for many insects and food for bees too! And while the developed cultivars are beautiful, don’t overlook the native shrubs for bees. They are sometimes easier to grow.
If you have a lot of space, you may have room for one of the flowering trees that help bees by providing pollen or nectar. Some of them are smaller understory trees that can be very useful as a food source.
Water Sources in the Bee Garden
Honey bees are very good at finding sources of water. Foragers find natural water sources that humans may not know exist.
However, providing a clean water source for bees in your garden is easy to do and is especially beneficial in areas where water pollution is a factor.
Small Water Stations for the Bees
Even a very small garden has room for a water feature that can provide a drink for bees. This simple build a bee waterer project is fun for kids and a great way to teach them about the importance of bees.
Another great idea for a water source is a fun garden craft using a terra cotta pot and saucer. This bee water station is larger and provides water for a longer time.
Providing More Water for Beehives
Are you a beekeeper – or you have a lot of bees in your area? You need a larger water source.
If you have a couple of hives in the backyard you need to think big! Large fountains or small water gardens are one way to provide water for bees and other pollinators. It should be large enough to not need filling every day.
Water gardens are a beautiful addition to any garden. They can provide water and maybe some bee food too! Consider experimenting with some water plants. I enjoy growing lotus tubers in my bee garden.
Don’t hesitate having a bee friendly garden just because you don’t have the the perfect location. Use problem areas in your yard to develop mini bee gardens.
If you have a wet area that is difficult to maintain consider creating a rain garden. Including suitable plants that provide pollen or nectar will benefit any bees in the area and reduce yard maintenance.
Bee Friendly Weed Control
What is a weed? For the gardener, that really depends on your point of view. Keep in mind that many “weeds” feed bees – perhaps you can leave some natural areas.
However, if you must do something for weed control, consider all of the alternatives. Some types of weed killers are safer for bees than others and always apply late in the day when most bees have stopped foraging.
Use care when choosing any type of pesticides or weed killers. Homemade herbicides such as, vinegar weed killer, are not as effective as commercial types but they will work. Anytime you can use mulches or cover crops to reduce the use of weed killers, that is a good thing to do.
Fun Garden Projects That Benefit Bees
Sometimes it is fun to “think outside the box” when it comes to creating bee garden spaces. Choosing a plant that feed bees and provides something extra for you is a great way to share with our bees.
Do you enjoy growing herbs? This is a popular activity for many gardeners. Many flowering herbs can be grown in small places or even pots. Bees enjoy the blooms and you reap the benefits of fresh herbs for the kitchen.
If you are interested in something unusual that brings extra excitement to the garden. Grow Sponges – What Fun! I have had quite an experience growing Luffas Gourds for Bees each season.
Bee Garden Crafts and Activities
Bee friendly gardening does not have to be a project for only 1 person. Get the whole family involved – it is a great learning experience for children and helps them develop a deeper appreciation for bees.
Hummingbird Feeders and Bees
Hummingbird feeders are a popular feature during the Summer months. But, sometimes the bees and the birds can clash.
Both hunger for sweet nectar and if the bees are having trouble finding food – problems arise. If you experience this problem consider these tips to keep bees away from hummingbird feeders.
It is not always possible to prevent every bee from visiting your feeder but the problem can be reduced. And thankfully, in most locations the problem doesn’t last all Summer.
Make Seed Balls or Seed Bombs For More Flowers
When creating bee friendly gardening plans, you don’t have to be stuck in one spot. You can spread the plant love around and help diversify bee food sources near and far.
Learning how to make seed balls with soil and red clay is a fun activity for all ages. This is a great way to spread patches of wildflowers around in a natural setting.
Another method of doing some bee friendly gorilla gardening is by making seed bombs with air dry clay. These make great gardening gifts and are so simple the kids can help.
Final Tips for Bee Friendly Gardening
These are just a few tips that anyone can put into action. A good design involves many aspects.
Choosing the best flowers that bees love for your garden and providing cover and water are all important factors. Every flower counts – you can make a difference!
In fact, your bee garden can play a big role in helping save bees and other pollinators in your region.