Building a BEE Friendly Garden: Saving the Bees One Garden at a Time

May 26, 2017
By now you must’ve heard about the global disappearance of honeybees and are well aware that other bee species are declining too. There are numerous reasons why this is happening...

Some we don’t understand yet, others we know for sure. And of the reasons we know, loss of habitat is one of the biggest factors.

That’s why, these days, more and more gardeners are looking to do their part to help the plight of bees by building bee-friendly gardens. We owe a lot to these hard-working pollinators. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to grow many of the fruits and vegetables we take for granted, so it only makes sense to help them out. And it isn’t difficult.

So here are some simple tips on how to set up a bee-friendly garden this spring!

Choose the right kind of flowers

It’s no great secret that bee-friendly flowers attract pollinators. But did you know that planting a garden which draws in bees on a constant, healthy basis involves more than simply putting a couple of random, bee-friendly flowers in the ground?

Fact. 

When planting a bee-friendly garden, the first thing you want to do is (when possible) plant native flowers. Flowers that will not only help feed your bees, but are also uniquely adapted to your region.

That’s the first thing.

Next, you’ll want to plan for a succession of flowers — so as one finishes pollinating another begins — as well as for the different types of bees that will be visiting at different times of your gardening season.

For instance, at the beginning of the season, you’ll want to plant flowers that bloom early so there’ll be food for bees just coming out of hibernation. Hawthorns, Forget-Me-Nots, and  Pussy Willows are ideal selections.  At the same time, you have to remember that during the spring your garden will mostly be attracting bumblebees because they are warm blooded, allowing them to fly in cooler conditions. Some of the bumblebee’s favourites include lungwort (Pulmonaria), grape hyacinth (Musacari), crocus, and the Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus).

Oh, and don’t tubular-shaped flowers like Foxglove (Digitalis). Bumblebees love tube-shaped flowers!

As the gardening season slides into summer, that’s when you’ll see more honeybees visit your garden. So along with excellent summer bloomers like clover, calendula, and borage, you’ll also want to have a smattering of flowers that honeybees are attracted to. Round, saucer-shaped flowers like hollyhock, mallow, and primrose.

Towards the end of the year, make sure you have late-season flowers like aster, witch hazel, and goldenrods.

For other bee-friendly plants, check out BeeFriendly.ca or drop by our greenhouse and have a chat with our staff. We’re more than happy to help!

Plant your flowers strategically

Now that you have chosen a variety of plants that will be flowering in a way that will allow your bee garden to travel through time, lasting from early spring to mid-fall, it’s time to physically plan your garden.  

This isn’t too difficult. There are only a couple of things to keep in mind.

First: when it comes to bee-friendly flowers and plants, it’s best to group the same ones together in blocks or swaths. These blocks are ideal bee attractors because they help provide a strong floral scent trail that bees use to find food.

Second: if you have fruit or vegetable plots in your garden, be sure to add some bee-friendly flowers. You can put them either on the margins of the plot or in among the fruit and veggies. You have to remember that flowering vegetables like, say, beans attract bees too. So this can prove double effective.

Also, it would be wise to keep in mind that most bee-friendly flowers prefer a sunny, sheltered location.

Provide a welcoming habitat

It’s one thing to attract bees to your garden, but how do you get them to stick around?

One way is to have a bee house for them. You can buy one or more intrepid DIYers can simply make one, it’s entirely up to you.

If that seems like too much work, you can just provide a space for bees to nest. With the right materials, they will build a home for themselves. Some types of bees will nest in cracks of old pieces of wood. Bumblebees, on the other hand, dig tiny tunnels in the dirt and stack them with pollen. If you want to encourage bees to build their own shelter, one thing you can do is simply leave a patch of your garden uncultivated in a sunny spot. Sooner or later, they’ll burrow in and make themselves at home.

Another way to make bees stick around your garden is by providing water. A bee bath, so to speak.

Why do you need this?

Because bees, like other insects, need fresh water to drink.

Most of them can’t land in a bird bath, so you’ll have to improvise. A small backyard waterfall will work. A dripping hose too. Or, you could make your own bee bath with a few simple household items.

Avoid chemicals in your garden

Okay. This one is simple. DO NOT use pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals in your garden — EVER. Not even organic ones. They are all toxic for bees.

And while you’re at it, don’t spray any of that stuff in your yard either. Not on your lawn. Not on your trees. Not anywhere.

Instead, use non-toxic, natural forms of bug control like netting or garden fleece. As far as weed control goes, try regular hoeing or mulching.

Also, when it comes to chemicals in your garden and yard, please be careful where you buy your plants.

Thanks so much for reading! Hope we see you soon!