Plant a Bee Friendly Garden

Spring is coming and many of us are planning our spring and summer gardens. We often think of the plants we choose in relation to their beauty or their ability to provide us with food or fresh cut flowers. But we might also consider plants that will bring helpful friends into our space like bees. In fact, if you are growing fruits and veggies bees are pretty vital for the success of your harvest. 

I like to plant to attract native bees who have fewer issues with Colony Collapse Disorder. The Honeybee Conservancy recommends planting native flowers as the best bet. You can check with your local Master Gardener Extension Office for specifics on plants for your microclimate but here is a general collection that will make your garden not only beautiful, but very attractive to bees. In the next blog post I'll be discussing how to make your own native bee house to make your garden even more enticing.

When choosing flowers, select single head flowers like marigolds and daisies. While double heads are more showy, they produce less nectar and are less interesting to our bee friends.

Borage. Photo credit backyard Diva. 

Borage. Photo credit backyard Diva. 

Plants which have been highly hybridized usually do not produce much pollen.

Bees will be more apt to make your garden home if they are provided with a year round (or nearly so) buffet.

Calendula companion planted with yellow squash. Merry Spinster garden.

Calendula companion planted with yellow squash. Merry Spinster garden.

Herbs and flowers such as borage, echinacea, hyacinth, wild lilac, bee balm, lemon balm, calendula, snap dragons, foxglove, hosta, zinnia, cosmos and asters will keep them happy and active from spring to the end of fall.

Cosmos. Merry Spinster garden.

Cosmos. Merry Spinster garden.

Mexican Sage. Merry Spinster garden.

Mexican Sage. Merry Spinster garden.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

Echinacea. Photo credit The Scott Arboretum.

Echinacea. Photo credit The Scott Arboretum.

Provide a bit of open soil for ground bees to burrow. Bee houses (blog post and video coming soon) will attract other varieties. 

Use no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Most states have an Integrated Pest Management website which will offer you a myriad of options for dealing with unwanted vertebrate and invertebrate pests in your garden. Here's the page for the University of California IPM program as an example.

Create a bee bath. Bees need fresh water to drink. Make a little bee bath by filling a little dish with some stones and twigs and filling with water. The twigs and stones will provide footing for them as they stop to drink. To avoid mosquitos breeding, keep the water freshened regularly.

If you'd like to learn more about bees visit these great organizations online:

The Honeybee Conservancy

American Beekeeping Federation

Honeylove.org

Bee Native