Create Your Own Bee Friendly Garden
Oh, the excitement of planning the garden for next season. Some old favorites and maybe some new plants too? I hope you will consider creating a bee friendly garden. The local pollinators will thank you and you will be helping the local ecosystems. Bee friendly gardening may be easier than you think!
Gardening is truly a year round activity. The warmer months are spent planting, weeding and watering. But, garden thoughts continue during the Winter months too.
We have to plan for next season right? That’s why all those seed catalog appear in our mailboxes in January.
While you are planning your garden design, take a few moments to thing about the bees. This is an easy opportunity to help your local pollinators.
Small Spaces for Pollinator Flowers
Do you have a large backyard garden? If you have the space, mass plantings of several pollinator-friendly flowers can provide much needed pollen and nectar.
But, even a small bee garden can help. Perhaps, a container garden (like this one? ) on a small patio fits your lifestyle better.
Having several small areas with plants that bloom over a long time is better than having 1 large area of the same plant. This gives the bees a more diverse diet.
Your small backyard garden can be filled with a variety of flowering plants or maybe you have space for a small tree? I have seen bees working my Japanese Maple!
Choose Plants to Help Bees
Make the most of the area that you have available. Bee friendly gardening requires attention to several factors.
You should consider how much space you have and what your climate is like. The most beautiful plants in the wrong location will not flourish.
Will you need plants that do well in sun or shade? The water requirements of plants matter as well to make the garden easier to maintain.
If you desire plants that require a lot of moisture, have a plan for irrigation. This might be an installed system or just within reach of a water faucet.
Flowers that Provide Food
Bees need 2 types of food. They require nectar and pollen to survive. Some flowers produce both nectar and pollen. However, some plants do not provide food for bees.
Honey bees use nectar to make honey. Plant nectar is collected by worker bees. Inside the hive it is converted into honey. Honey is that perfect food for storage over Winter.
Plants that produce seed or fruit require pollination. Insects help move the pollen grains from one flower to another. Bees also collect pollen for use in their hives.
Pollen is used as a protein source for many types of bees. Without pollen, no baby bees could be raised.
Giving your neighborhood bees a diverse selection of food sources promotes good bee health.
How to Create A Bee Friendly Garden
Make use of all the space available
When you create a bee friendly garden plan, you will want to fill the space with flowers. However, leave room for you and your visitors to walk or sit.
A lovely bench is a good idea or maybe a small gazebo. Place any sitting spots away from large, pendulous blooming plants.
We enjoy watching the bees and butterflies work. But not everyone wants to get “up close and personal” with stinging insects.
Design wide walkways or paths. This allows humans and pets to walk through your backyard bee garden safely.
Honey bees only sting as a form of defense. Working honey bees are not aggressive but you must respect their personal bee space.
Plan a water feature for your bees
All pollinators need a water source. If you live in a rural area, your bees may have access to natural water.
However, you may find that they will use a good water source that you provide.
A large birdbath with pebbles around the edge to create a shallow drinking spot is good. But you need to be sure to keep your water source full.
In hot weather, small pools can dry up quickly. And when the weather is hot and dry that’s when our bees need water most.
Do you have space for a small water garden? A tub or plastic pond form with some plants and a couple of small goldfish will add beauty to your area. Bees will sit on the live plants and sip water from the pond.
You can provide a sip for a small number of bees and butterflies by creating a bee water station.
Protect the Bees from Poisoning.
Do you use herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals in a nearby area? If so, choose the most harmless types, read the labels and follow directions.
Even better choose non-chemical methods to control undesirable insects when possible.
Plan a Prolonged Bloom Period
Add some variety to your bee garden. Use a combination of plants placed directly in the soil (if possible) and add potted annuals.
You can replace the annuals with others once their bloom time is over. This gives you variety in the garden and provides a continues supply of pollen and nectar for the bees.
Give thought to plants that bloom again and again. This is especially true in late Summer when many annuals are finished.
Choose the Best Plants for Bees in Your Area
Now for the fun part. It’s time to choose the best plants for bees for your garden. Don’t forget to consider your planting climate. Choose plants that will grow well within your temperature and rainfall range.
You can use annual plants that grow, bloom and die in one season. They provide a lot of nectar and/or pollen.
Perennial plants are also a good choice for bees. They bloom and return the next year. A mixture of several different types creates a pleasing display of bee food.
Mixing annual and perennial plants is a good idea. The annual plants produce a lot of food in a short time. The perennials tend to bloom longer and fill in the gaps.
Annual Plants for A Bee Friendly Garden
Annual plants are easily available at local garden centers throughout the growing season.
You can also plant seeds in the soil or in containers and grow annual flowers.
Because this type of plant must produce seed in one season, it provides a lot of nectar/pollen to lure bees.
They come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Some great annual plants for bees are: Cornflower, Cosmos, Borage, Sunflowers, Zinnia, Salvia, Dahlia, Snapdragons, Sweet Alyssum and many others.
You can even grow gourds for yourself and the bees will enjoy the flowers.
Perennial Plants for A Bee Friendly Garden
Don’t forget to choose some perennial plants for bees when creating your bee friendly garden. They are not as showy as the annuals but they come back year after year.
Perennial plants to consider are : Echinacea, Thyme, Aster, Yarrow, Lavender, Sedum, Phlox, Agastache and many large shrubs and trees.
Recap: Steps for Designing Your Garden for Bees
- make wise use of space
- provide water
- limit pesticide use
- choose plants with a long bloom period
- use plants for your climate
Designing and creating a garden for pollinators is fun. Search out local nurseries and stroll through their plant selections.
Your local garden center may be a good source of plants. Check to be sure that the plant source does not use chemicals harmful to bees!
If you have a large space, maybe you would like to become a beekeeper. A couple of beehives is a great complement to a well-designed garden. Not interested in keeping bees?
That’s okay. Everyone can help the bees and all pollinators by designing bee friendly spaces.