How to create a Bee-friendly garden
- By: Ashley Saunders
- February 2020
The decline in Honeybees is a serious threat to global food production. It’s worth doing all you can to encourage and create a bee-friendly garden where they can thrive.
It’s fairly easy to pinpoint the reasons for the decline in Honeybees. The top reasons are rising global temperature, our excessive use of chemical, and loss of the right environments.
Bees are our biggest pollinators with up to a third of all crops relying on them and so their decline is a global threat to our food sources.
Thankfully, you can do something to stop the rapid drop in Honeybees by turning your outdoors into a bee-friendly garden.
Grow a variety of plants
As Bees need to collect about 20 kg of pollen every year, they rely on a local, plentiful supply of plants. In addition to a quantity of plants, they also like a variety. Thankfully, Bees are content with easy to grow flowers like asters, sunflowers and daisies.
Four season planting
A common misconception about Bees is that they are summer creatures who hibernate by winter. In fact, they will begin to forage when the temperature exceeds 10°C. It’s not uncommon to see Bees exploring during the winter, although March to September are key months for Honeybees.
So it’s important in a bee-friendly garden to plant flowers that will flower at different times throughout the year and provide a plentiful supply of pollen.
Ideal bee-friendly plants to grow in summer include lavender, agastache, foxgloves, cardoon, and echinops.
Perfect bee-friendly plants to grow in autumn include single-flowered dahlias, Verbena bonariensis, Japanese anemones, and autumn asters.
Bee-friendly plants to grow in winter include snowdrops, ivy, winter honeysuckle, and mahonia.
Ideal bee-friendly plants to grow in spring include flowering cherry, daffodils, alliums, and grape hyacinth.
Small garden? Add plant containers
Your garden’s size shouldn’t deter you from trying to help bees. Even if you only have a small terrace, you can still plant seasonal containers with bee-friendly plants.
Learn to love weeds
While no one likes weeds, many varieties provide precious forage. By constantly mowing, you destroy one of the easiest growing food sources. So, it’s a good idea to mow less and allow some areas to grow wild.
A wild garden will be rich in daisies, trefoil, clovers and dandelions. All are a vitally important source of nectar.
Equally important: bushes and trees
Bushes and trees are can provide the same amount of forage as miles of wildflowers. It’s worth planting evergreen bushes and trees as they provide a consistent, year-round source of forage. Not only do they make for an excellent bee-friendly garden, but they also add colour.
Water, water everywhere
As bees don’t store water in the hive, they’ll fly out find and collect it. While you don’t need to install a pond, you can capture rainwater in bowls which are dotted around your garden. This provides plenty of spots for them to collect water during their foraging.
Air Bee N B!
Boost bee diversity by including bee hotel in your garden. Typically, they attract solitary bees, who lay their eggs in the hollow cavities. This leaves a small food supply for the larvae to eat. The larvae then hatch, pupate and emerge from the stems.
It’s best to position bee hotels in full sun. Building a bee hotel is a simple, fun project and the BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine has an easy to follow guide. If DIY isn’t your thing, Amazon stocks a range of Bee Hotels, with many costing under £20.
Overuse of chemicals easily destroys the environment bees need to thrive. By limiting the number of chemicals and only using the minimum dosing when it’s absolutely necessary, you can start to garden more organically and sustainably.
Make bee nests
During the autumn and early winter, Queen bumblebees seek out places to hibernate, typically, in old vole and shrew holes. Remerging in late winter and early spring, they start to seek the location of their next nest.
Using an old flower pot and some straw, you can provide a cosy, safe home for them to hibernate in. It’s likely you already have all the materials to build a bumblebee nest.
Provide plenty of shade
Bees prefer sheltered, shady corners that are out of the way. The best way to add some shade into your garden is to include a few upturned/broken plant pots with easy entry.
We’re big fans of growing herbs. They’re cheap and easy to grow yet delicious and don’t require much space. Plus, herbs are a valuable source of food for bees and other pollinating insects.
Start by growing thyme, chives, sage or creeping rosemary in a pot. As you become more confident you can plant a patch in the garden.
Study bees and adapt to their whims
The best way to create a bee-friendly garden is to study them. Gather inspiration from your neighbours’ gardens and observe which plants and trees bees prefer to visit.
It’s worth asking your neighbour what these plants are. You could also take a photo to your local garden centre and ask the professionals to identify the plants. Garden centres are another fantastic place to research bees and what plants they find the most attractive.
Save wildlife habitat with peat-free compost
While the government aims to phase out the sale of peat in garden centres this year, by deciding not to use it altogether, you can do your bit to save endangered peat bogs. Thankfully, many good alternatives that now exist including the Tigerbox Miracle-Gro All Purpose Enriched Compost.
Create a welcoming garden for beneficial insects
Some insects such as hoverflies, beetles and ladybirds hunt aphids and other pests can aid us in our goal of creating a bee-friendly garden. Having a fantastic garden that helps bees doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Again study how bees react to your patch and adjust accordingly. While organic pest control takes some work, it will create the right environment for bees who will, in turn, pollinate your plants and crops.
Start to create your bee-friendly garden
There are plenty of things you can do to create a more bee-friendly garden, regardless of the size of your outdoors. Consider adding plants and bushes which provide plentiful food for bees as well as a few bee hotels.
Start with small changes and adapt your plan based on what you observe the bees who flock to your garden.