How to create a bee garden
Planting a bee garden is becoming increasingly important as across our planet, bees are thought to be suffering increased stress as a result of global warming, and the effect that this has on flowering times and nectar availability. It will take many generations of bees to evolve into stronger colonies able to deal with the change in climate.
We depend on the work of bees and other insects more than most of us realise; almost 70% of the food we consume relies on pollination from insects, and bees are a critical part of this army of fertilizers.
Meanwhile there is plenty we can do to help. Knowing which plants bees prefer, and at what time of the year they need access to them, can make a fundamental difference to the success of local bee colonies.
Whether we live in an urban area or deep in the countryside, we can actively encourage bees to thrive in the vicinity of our homes by creating a bee garden, however small that might be!
7 eazzzy tips for your bee garden
- Create a bee garden and plant bee -friendly flowers and shrubs. You will not only attract honey-bees, but bumbles and solitary bees too. Bee-friendly flowers must be grown in a sunny position in large clumps to make it easy for bees to collect, this is why lavender bushes are so successful as a bee-food source. If you have a hive of honey-bees in the vicinity, don’t plant bee-loving plants too close to it, as the bees will naturally avoid them if they fall within their toilet zone!
- Don’t go pulling up all your weeds just yet as dandelions and forget-me-nots are an excellent source of food, while dahlias and chrythamimums are not. Old-fashioned varieties are always better than highly cultivated plants. If you prefer a neat, manicured garden, it’s best to section off an area that is devoted specifically to bees and sow a wildlife seed mixture. Along with other bee-friendly plants you introduce, you’ll soon find the area teaming with life as the fruits, berries and seeds provide food for many other birds and animals.
- Provide flowers to sustain bees during the lean periods. Early spring and late autumn plants flowering plants are always welcome in a bee garden, as they provide an excellent food source just when the bees need it most!
- Ensure a year-round availability of pollen and nectar, garden size permitting. White dead nettle and heathers are loved by bees and provide food when other plants have gone. Crocuses, snowdrops and other early spring bulb plants are an excellent early source of food too. In late spring, the wild flowers arrive, such as our favourite here on Natural Mothers, the dandelion! The summer brings with it the aroma of honeysuckles, lavender, Salvia and the catmints as well as many other herbs. Buddleia, heathers and autumn-flowing crocuses are late flowering plants whose nectar and pollen helps fatten the bees up before winter!
- Create a nest box for your bumbles and mason bees. We will explain how to construct one of these in Mothership Magazine, June 2012.
- For urban gardeners with limited space or access only to a windowsill, there is still plenty you can do to support bees, as they love herbs! Bees love the mint family herbs which include basil, marjoram, sage and thyme. If you have a little more space then the addition of a rosemary or lavender pot would go down a treat. You may also like to try miniature gooseberry or raspberry fruit bushes or even a selection of pot-grown vegetables, such as beans or tomatoes,as they provide a good source of food for us and our bee friends too!
- Stay organic and keep your bee garden pesticide free. If you want to help the bees, please don’t use pesticides or lawn-care products, these are known to be one of the causes for the decline in bee numbers.
The best bee garden flowers: Aconite, Allium, Anchusa, Arabis, aster, Borago, Campanula, centaurea, Chionodoxa, Colchicum, Delphinium, Echinops, Echium, Endymion, Erigeron, Hyssopus, Kniphofia, Lavandulus, Limnanthes, Limonium, Lobelia, Lychnis, Lysimachia, Lythrum, Malva, Matricaria, Melissa, Mentha, Monarda, Muscari, Myositis, Nemophilia, nepeta, Nigella, Omphalodes, Origanum, Papaver, Phacelia, Platycodon, Polemonium, Pulmonaria, Reseda, Salvia, Scabiosa, Scilla Thymus and Veroncia.
The best bee shrubs and trees: Acer, Aesculus, Alnus, Berberis, Betula, Caragana, Catalpa, ceanothus, Cercis, Chaenomeles, Cistus, Cotoneaster, Crataegus, daphne, Elaeagnus, Escallonia, Fagus, Fraxinus, Fushia, hedera, hypericum, ilex, laurus, Liquidambar, Liriodendron, Malus Mespilus, Olearia, Perowskia, Physiocarpus, Populus, Potetilla, Prunus, Pyracantha, Quercus, Rhamnus, Rhus, Ribes, Robinia, Rosmarinus, Rubus, Salix, senecio, Skimmia, Sorbus, Spiraea, Symphoricarpus, syringa, Tamarix, Tillia, Ulex, Viburnum and Weigela.
The best bee wildflowers: Agrimony, bellflower, betony, corncockle, clovers, cranesbill, flax, forget-me-not, hound’s tongue, mallow, medowsweet, melilot, mullein, ox-eye daisy, pansy, poppy, ragged robin, scabious, soapwort, tansy, teasel, trefoil, valerian and yarrow.
The best bee herb for potting: Chives ( allow to flower) mints, lemon balm, fennel, angelica, fennel, thyme, sage, margoram, origanum, rosemary and lavender
What plants do you plan to include in your bee garden? We would love to hear from you!
Mothership Magazine’s related articles
Suggested reading from the garden section of Natural Mothers Store
Keeping Bees And Making Honey by Alison Benjamin
Check out these wonderful bee enthusiasts for plenty of additional information.