7 Great Tips to Grow a Beautiful Bee Garden!
Updated: Sep 16, 2018
Ever dreamed of being a chef? Well, now you can- your garden can become a five-star restaurant for bees of all types! Bees get their food from flowers- they eat nectar and pollen. Wherever you live, and whatever amount of space you have for gardening, you will find some honey-sweet tips below.
1.) Variety is the Spice of (Wild) Life
When creating a garden, remember to have as many different varieties of plants as you can. The common recommended number is ten or more, but if you can’t fit that many in that’s okay. Anything you do to help bees makes a difference! If you have a variety of plants for bees, the bees will have a greater variety of vitamins and nutrients in their diet. When bees get better nutrition, they become healthier and have less stress put onto their bodies. Mix it up with perennials, annuals, bushes, shrubs, trees, herbs, veggies, and fruits to your heart’s content! Just remember to try and keep each species of flower in a patch at or larger than one square meter. With bees, it’s the bigger the better. One quick warning: before planting anything, check online to make sure it is safe for bees. And of course, no poisonous plants!
2.) Go Native
Try to fill your garden with plants that are native to your geographic area- that is, plants that are originally from your area or plants that have been in your area for hundreds of years. If a plant is adapted to live in your environment, it will need less fertilizer because it can already get the nutrients it needs from the soil. It will also need less watering, because it will be used to its environment already. How do they relate to bees? Well, native plants have existed in your area for so long that native bees in your area have evolved alongside the flowers. Native plants and bees form a nifty team: the flowers get pollinated, and the bees get food they have adapted to eat. That means that planting native flowers attracts native bees. A good thing too: 37% of native bee species are in decline in North America! Save the bees, and plant native.
3.) Try Natural Gardening
Pesticides and insecticides affect the nervous systems of bees, and can be lethal. Even if these gardening chemicals don't immediately kill a bee, the bee can fly home to its nest carrying residue. Over time, this buildup of chemicals can cause problems in the bees. If a person ingests the honey, they will be contaminated will some trace amounts of pesticides and other gardening chemicals. Herbicides are no good either- a lot of the plants you're killing with herbicides are great food for bees, like dandelions. To give the bees a break, try making your garden and lawn pesticide, insecticide, and herbicide free. If you want to protect your lawn and garden, but still use natural methods of gardening, try any of the following.
Diatomaceous Earth: This is an organic insecticide that also repels slugs and snails.
Earthworms: These wonderful insects fill soil with air and nutrients.
Nectar-Producing Plants: Not only do these plants attract bees- they also attract natural pest controllers like ladybugs!
Vinegar: Applying this natural herbicides to the weeds you want to get rid of should have them gone in no time! Just make sure to not use apple cider vinegar, which is ineffective.
4.) If You Don’t Have Much Room…
Limited space? Any bit helps. Set up a flowerpot with a native flower and put it outside. You'd be surprised at the attention it gets! If you want to be extra nice, make a little water station for bees. Fill a bowl or even a coffee mug with water. Then add some rocks so that some of the rocks are above the surface of the water. Alternatively, float a square of cork board on the top of the water. These two options provide bees with a safe place to land for a drink. As for maintenance, just replace the water regularly.
5.) Sit Back and Enjoy the View
Nature has been proven to relieve stress and make us feel happier, so why not cash in on that effect? Spend some time watching your bee garden. Watch the fuzzy bees fly from flower to flower, dusting themselves with pollen as they go. Watch your garden at different times throughout the day to see when bees come the most. See which flowers are the most popular. The "zen" quality of watching bees is unlike anything else. Listen to the gentle buzzing of bees and the rustle of leaves and petals. There's nothing quite like relaxing in nature.
6.) Flower Recommendations
It's important to explore plant options yourself to find what you are most interested in putting into your garden. But before you do, here's a couple of recommendations.
Mint: Mint has an amazing taste, and bees love it too. The little lavender flowers will keep them happy and nourished- and who knows? Maybe it'll freshen their breath! Just be careful: Mint is known for invading the whole garden, so you may want to keep it in a pot.
Sunflowers: These are a bee favorite, because the dark inside circle is made up of many tiny flowers.
Fennel: Delicious flavor in cooking plus tons of tiny flowers equals one amazing bee plant.
Bee Balm: As the name suggests, this flower is adored by bees (and hummingbirds too!).
Dandelions: Bees love dandelions for their high pollen content! Unfortunately, your lawnmower does too. Having a section of lawn for free dandelion growth is a great way to help bees in their quest for food.
7.) Extra Tips
Here are a couple extra tips to supercharge your bee garden.
Bee Bath: Float some square pieces of cork board on top of the water in a bird bath or bowl. Fill the bird bath or bowl with water, and change out the water regularly. Bees will flock your water station to grab a refreshing drink on their way to and from the nectar-harvesting work of the day.
Fresh Ground: Leave some plain soil near your garden untouched for burrowing bees to build their home.
Lay Off the Landscape Fabric: Avoid using landscape fabric and plastic in your garden. It blocks bee's and earthworm's access to the soil, and those two beneficial insects mean everything to a healthy garden!
California Native Plant Society. “Bee-Friendly Gardening.” California Native Plant Society Blog, 25 Oct. 2017, grownatives.cnps.org/2010/03/31/bee-friendly-gardening/.
“Honey Bee Nutrition.” EXtension, articles.extension.org/pages/28844/honey-bee-nutrition.
“Bumble Bees Make a Beeline for Larger Flowers.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 29 June 2017, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170629101711.htm.
Milner, Charlotte. The Bee Book. DK Publishing, 2018.
Frey, Kate, and Gretchen LeBuhn. The Bee-Friendly Garden. Ten Speed Press, 2016.
Worland, Justin. “Bee Populations Decline Due to Pesticides, Habitat Loss.” Time, Time, 2 Mar. 2017, time.com/4688417/north-american-bee-population-extinction/.
“Find a Treatment Facility.” CRC Health Group, www.crchealth.com/find-a-treatment-center/struggling-youth-programs/help/nature-is-therapeutic/.