Learn how to plan a garden that is bee-friendly to attract beneficial pollinating insects to your plants—whether vegetables, fruits, or flowers.
Planning a Bee-Friendly Garden
In many parts of the world bees and other pollinators are in decline for a variety of reasons, including modern agricultural techniques, the spread of towns and cities, and the loss of natural habitat. Bees provide a vital service by pollinating the plants that produce a lot of the food we eat and which feed the insects that fuel the food chain. By helping bees we’re helping both wildlife, and ourselves.
The combined size of domestic gardens is vast, and in towns and cities they provide corridors of plant life that are vital for urban wildlife. By creating bee-friendly spaces within our gardens, we can help to support vulnerable populations and enjoy better harvests.
Tip 1: Choose bee-friendly flowers
Plan for a succession of flowers, so as one finishes flowering another begins, providing a constant supply of pollen and nectar for bees to feed on. Choose flowers that are rich in pollen and nectar—wavoid double-flowered varieties for this reason. Providing a wide range of flowers in your garden, including flowering trees and shrubs, will provide a bigger banquet for your bees.
Plants that bloom early in the year offer food for bees emerging from hibernation—willows, hawthorn, the blossom of fruit trees such as apples, cherries and plums, and plants such as crocus and aubretia, are all good choices.
Excellent summer bloomers include clover, calendula, borage, and poached egg plant. Towards the end of the year make sure there are late-season flowers available, for instance aster, echinacea and common ivy.
Tip 2: Plant flowers strategically
Most bee-friendly flowers prefer a sunny, sheltered location. Grow plants in blocks or swathes to maximise their useful impact for bees.
Our Garden Planner includes a selection of flowers proven to attract beneficial insects to your plot. Simply click on ‘flowers’ or ‘herbs’ in the selection bar drop-down filter to list some popular options. Click on the information button to reveal the plant’s description, including its suitability for attracting pollinators.
Include flowers as companion plants amongst your fruits and vegetables—either at the margins, at the ends of beds, or between crops. Don’t forget that flowering vegetables such as beans will also attract bees. Use the Garden Planner to select, drop and then drag rows and blocks of flowers to size in your plan, making them an integral part of your cropping plan.
Tip 3: Go wild!
Allow some corners of your garden to go a little wild to provide valuable habitat for bees. For example, in winter leave grass to grow longer and allow the hollow stems of perennials to remain standing to offer additional shelter. Many wild plants are a rich source of nectar and pollen, while others, such as stinging nettles, provide food for the larvae of pollinating butterflies.
Cutting all or part of your lawn less frequently will also mean that low-growing lawn flowers such as clover and daisies can flower for longer, offering more foraging opportunities for bees.
Tip 4: Provide bee habitat
Wild bees nest in a range of locations, including small holes left by other animals, in sheltered crevices in walls or in a compost heap, or among thick clumps of grass. Avoid disturbing nests or hibernation sites.
Add bee hotels to provide further habitat for many types of bumble and solitary bees. Make your own by gathering bundles of hollow stems, canes and twigs and packing them into a watertight outer casing, or drill different-sized holes into a block of untreated wood—between one-tenth to half an inch (2-10mm) across. Position bee hotels in sheltered locations, away from the worst of the winter weather.
Tip 5: Avoid chemicals in the garden
Gardeners in tune with nature shouldn’t have to use chemical pesticides or weed killers. These unnatural controls disrupt the food chain, depleting populations of pollinators and pest predators as well as pests, and locking the gardener into a dependency on yet more chemicals.
Instead, choose natural pest controls, including netting, garden fleece or mesh barriers and companion plants, and natural weed controls such as regular hoeing and mulching.
After you enjoy this video, get planning with a free trial of our online Garden Planner!