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How to Make a Bee Friendly Garden

Posted July 31st, 2013 by Mike McGroarty in

Bee

In most scenarios, we would do all we could to steer bees in the opposite direction. However if your goal is to grow a beautiful and productive vegetable garden, you’ll want to bring on the bees.

Knowing how to attract bees is essential to the growth of a healthy and productive vegetable garden. Bees play a major role by pollinating the plants and depending on your demographics; bees are not always in season.

The presence of bees in any garden is essential to producing beautiful clusters of delicious vegetables. Shelter provisions along with a colorful floral bouquet are among the many steps in how to attract bees. Providing an environment that is conducive to bee life is also an added benefit to them. Bees face hardships in finding safe habitats and are starting to decrease in population due to this. Planting flowers in abundance and plants that are native to your area are a major part of producing a bee inviting habitat.

You should enlist the assistance of online sources and area nurseries as well as talk to those in your area who have had success in growing wonderful bee habitats. Keep in mind that bees are similar to humans in that they are drawn to beautiful colors as well as sweet smells. However they are different in that they thrive in wildly grown not so clean sometimes muddy environments.

Regardless of your location, there is a process that will allow you to have the bee population you need that will enable you to enjoy a beautiful vegetable garden and its delicious benefits. It’s quite simple. If you give the bees what they need to lead a productive life, they’ll give your garden the pollination in return.

Flower Your Yard with Bee Friendly Plants

Plant! Plant! Plant! Plant not only vegetables but a beautiful arrangement of color blasting flowers. These are bee rewarding plants in that they give bees exactly what they need. Bees are drawn to colors and purple, yellow, white and blue are there favorites. Bees with long tongues are attracted to plants in the mint family such as oregano and lavender.

Talk with your local florist or nursery specialist about the best plants to grow in your area. You want to maximize your benefit by planting the widest variety conducive to your area.  The flowers that grow best will produce an abundance of nectar and pollen. You should be careful to blend a variety of flowers together to produce a wide array of options for the bees to choose from. When possible, you should select flowers that will bloom a wide petal assortment similar to Daisies and California asters.

Flowers with double petals don’t attract bees as well as single petals. Most double blossoms produce less pollen and nectar than single blossoms. The double petals also make it hard for the bees to access the inner flower. These are gorgeous to the human eye and all abuzz with bees.

Be sure to plant some flowers in sunny areas because bees appear to be partial to sunny environments. Select flowers that require low maintenance whenever possible. This will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed with the tasks of growing your garden, caring for the plants and enticing the bees to have a long term visit.

Bees Need a Place to Live

When attempting to lure bees to your garden, you must look at it as expecting guests. Just as you prepare for out of town guests, you must also prepare for the bees. You want to do all you can to make their stay as comfortable and rewarding as possible. If you’re planning on having them for an extended stay, you must be sure to prepare a space that they will enjoy and never want to leave.

Not all bees live in hives and your bees may just need a place to live. Some of the females create tunnels in the naked earth and store the tunnels with pollen they have gathered and lay an egg. Some of the bees prefer cracks in dried wood or trees. Therefore be sparing with the use of landscape fabric and using too much mulch. Although the use of the above mentioned enhances the appearance of your lawn, it will deter the bees from your vegetable garden.

Another part of learning how to attract bees is to always leave a space for wild growth near your garden. This is a space where grass and weeds are allowed to grow to full height which provides a suitable habitat and shelter for bees. You can also design a bee house for the bees to live. To do this you can use several pieces of bamboo bundled together. Place the house close to the ground because bees prefer living close to the ground. An easier method may very well be to purchase a commercial bee house but that takes all of the fun out of it.

Bees Need a Nesting Environment

A lack of proper places to nest is a major problem for some bees. If you want to keep them around, you must provide the proper elements to create this atmosphere. Bees gather small pieces of leaves which they cut and transform into natal cells for their baby bees. Make tiny pieces of leaves from your garden easy for them to access in an effort to build their homes. They will show you their appreciation by the excessive pollination they’ll shower upon your plants and vegetables.

Bees Thrive in a Safe Environment

Refrain from the use of pesticides and other chemical agents often used in gardens. Practice using natural substances to rid your garden of unwanted pesticides. Bees are negatively affected by commercial pesticides and the use of them will cause an adverse reaction to your attempt to attract them. Pollinators are not as active after dark so if you choose to spray your plants, you should do so at this time. It would also be best to spray only after the vegetable has outgrown its flower.  Read the labels carefully and if there is an indication that they are particularly harmful to bees, you should choose a different product.

Mixing pesticides presents a danger to yourself as well as the bees. Please only use recommended mixtures in their correct quantities as a precaution. Consider using only organic forms of pesticides in your garden as well. Spiders and lady bugs are also great natural insect repellents. These two creatures find pleasure in indulging in the insects that tend to feast off of your garden.

Blend Herbs into Your Ground

There are a wide range of herbs that are particularly attractive to bees. Basil, hyssop and borage are common and easy to find and bees adore these. English lavender, marjoram and rosemary are a few others that attract bees. Thyme is also an herb that attracts bees but be sure to only use these in combination with native plants. Again if you’re not certain which plants are native in your area, seek the help of a plant professional or nursery worker. Always leave bare patches of earth uncovered as well. Herbs when used for flowering purposes also offer other benefits to your vegetable garden. They repel insects and offer medical value.

Bees Need Water

Be sure to leave water around for them to quench their thirst. Bees don’t nest well in well kept lawns. Allow the shrubbery and weeds to be a little more abundant than normal.

Make Bee Friendly Vegetables a Part of Your Garden

Bees need a sufficient supply of nectar which supplies them with sugars for energy. This also gives the pollen as food and this is abundant in protein and fat. Be sure to plant bee attracting vegetables that produce at different times of each season. Doing so assures that there will always be a vegetable in your garden that gets the bees attention. Pumpkin and zucchini are great choices of vegetables for this and they add color enhancement to any vegetable garden. Wild garlic and peppers are tested and proven bee attractors.

In addition to following the above steps, it’s always helpful to know some of the most common bee attractors and when possible line your garden and lawn area with them. These are just a few:

  • Fruits & Trees Shrubs Herbs
  • Vegetables Buckeye Butterfly Cluster Catnip Hazels Honeysuckle
  • Cucumbers Linden Indigo Cilantro Willows Blueberry
  • Gourds Poplar Button Bush Fennel
  • Fruit Trees Sage
  • Strawberries Rosemary
  • Cantaloupe
  • Black Berries

Incorporating the above habits will provide a bee friendly atmosphere in your vegetable garden. Once the bees are there and active you will be in store for a garden rich in supply and fruitful in flavor.

In essence there are thousands of different species of native bees in the United States. They are naturally not aggressive and usually don’t sting. Many of them don’t have hives.

Carpenter Bees, Sweat Bees, Bumble Bees and Digger Bees are a few of the types you may have the honor of hosting. Following the above steps will give the bees a comfortable living environment and they’ll return the favor by generating the pollen your garden needs.

Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at Freeplants.com and read his blog at Mikesbackyardnursery.com.

Want more information? Read these articles:

Alternative “Garden Hives” for the Gardener Seeking Honeybee Pollination

Chaos in the Garden and the Necessity of Biodiversity

Hand Pollinating Indoor Cucumbers and Strawberries

Pollinating With Flies

Pollination Basics for Indoor Vegetable Gardeners

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