More and more gardeners are anxious to do their part to help the bees by adding to the shrinking flower-rich habitat in their area. In return, the bees will pollinate your flowers, providing a bountiful harvest of fruits, seeds, and vegetables as well as the joy of watching them up close. Here are somehelpful tips to keep in mind as you grow your bee-friendly garden:
RETHINK YOUR LAWNReplace part or all of your lawn grass with flowering plants, which provides food and habitat for bees and other wildlife.
PLANT NATIVE FLOWERSNative flowers help feed your bees and are uniquely adapted to your region.
SELECT SINGLE FLOWER TOPSExample: daisies and marigolds. Rather than double flower tops such as double impatiens. Double headed flowers produce much less nectar and make it much more difficult for bees to access pollen.
SKIP THE HIGHLY HYBRIDIZED PLANTSThese have been bred not to seed and thus produce very little pollen for bees and they typically have less of a fragrance then non-hybridized flowers!
PLAN FOR BLOOMS YEAR-ROUNDPlant at least three different types of flowers to ensure blooms through as many seasons as possible, thusproviding bees with a constant source of food. For example:• Spring – Crocus, Hyacinth, Borage, and Calendula• Summer – Bee Balm, Cosmos, Echinacea, Snapdragons, Foxglove, and Hosta• Fall – Zinnias, Sedum, Asters, Witch Hazel and Goldenrod• Winter – Winter hazel (Corylopsis glabrescens), Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana and Hamamelisvernalis) Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), Maples, and Forsythia
BUILD HOMES FOR SOLITARY BEES• Solitary Bees – Leave a patch of the garden in a sunny spot uncultivated. Some also need access to soil surface for nesting.• For wood- and stem-nesting bees – piles of branches, bamboo sections, hollow reeds, or nesting blocks made out of untreated wood.• Mason bees – need a source of water and mud, and many kinds of bees are attracted to weedy,untended hedgerows.
ONLY USE NATURAL PESTICIDES AND FERTILIZERSAvoid using herbicides or pesticides in the garden because they can be toxic to bees. Ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantises will naturally keep pest populations in check. We carry live ladybugs and praying mantis egg casings at Ashcombe in the Spring!
CREATE A “BEE BATH”Bees need a place to get fresh, clean water. Fill a shallow container of water with pebbles or twigs for the bees to land on while drinking. Make sure to maintain the container full of fresh water to ensure that they know they can return to the same spot every day.
LIVE IN A HOME WITHOUT A GARDEN?You need only a small plot of land—it can even be a window container or rooftop—to create an inviting oasis for bees. Every little bit can help to nurture bees and other pollinators.
SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT ON FOOD FOR BEES…Late fall is still shrub-planting season in much of North America. The ground in this area will likely remain workable at least through Thanksgiving. It is a great time to take advantage of flowering shrubs that will support honey bees in the coming year. Even one or two native, flowering shrubs can make a difference to a local colony of bees.
• Blueberry bushes (Vaccinium corymbosum and angustifolium)• Elderberry (Sambucus)• Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)• Witch-alder (Fothergilla gardenii and major)• Meadowsweet (Spirea)• Native Honeysuckle (Lonicera)
These are good native-shrub choices for many North American gardens. There are many more beautiful, garden-worthy choices available than I can possibly list here – some unique to this area. So get out there and plant some native, flowering shrubs while you still can. The bees will thank you for it!