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How to Start a Bee Garden: Tips for Growing a Garden for the Bees

bee sits on a purple garden flower

It’s no secret that humans are on a worldwide mission to help save the global bee populations. Once upon a time we used to swat them away, shoo them with books, and flee in terror from their painful stings. Today, some go so far as to carry around vials of sugar water specifically with the intent to save a tired, weary bee in need of recovery.

Years ago, “save the bees” messaging started inhabiting our daily lives from social media to the news, with environmentalists, educators, and animal-lovers sharing the call to action for people to be aware of the need to help save and restore the bee populations. And for good reason - honey bee hive populations plummeted to less than half of what it used to be. The US Department of Agriculture reports that in the United States, hives went from over 6 million in the 1940s to less than 2.5 million in 2021.

This massive loss is significantly attributed to loss of their natural habitats, the use of pesticides, and climate change across the globe. It’s dangerous not only for ecological reasons, but economical ones as well. 

Why Start a Bee Garden

Bees are the ultimate pollinators! Seasoned gardeners and novices alike understand the importance of pollination in the life cycle of flowers and foliage. We need pollinators to help feed ourselves – without pollinators, many of the earth’s fruits and vegetables won’t be seeded and pollinated and won’t grow and produce. We need pollinators to encourage a diverse range of plants to grow and flourish across the planet. 

And lastly, we need pollinators to help the growth of plants that function in carbon cycling and processing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. All in all, we need pollinators for the balancing of our ecosystem and the survival of ourselves as well as many other creatures across earth. 

So ultimately, the grand question isn’t “should I start a bee-friendly garden?” but “how do I start a bee-friendly garden”? Luckily, we’ve got some of the best tips and tricks to get your own beautiful, bee-friendly garden growing right in your own backyard! 

Tips for Starting a Beautiful and Healthy Bee Garden

By planting a bee-friendly garden in your own yard, you can actively provide them with opportunities for pollinating, draw them to your garden, and help them restore not only their natural habitats but also encourage them to thrive and survive! Not to mention, drawing in the bees is tremendously beneficial for your flowers themselves- they’ll be pollinated, germinated, and bloom and flourish for it. 

Avoid using or applying pesticides, herbicides, and any chemicals in your garden.

Pesticides are used to repel bugs and insects while herbicides are used to destroy weeds and unwanted plant growth. So, it’s naturally pretty obvious that if you use pesticides in your own garden, you’re going to not only deter healthy bee populations from enjoying your plants, you are also going to kill some of them in the process. Additionally, any herbicides or other chemicals are also going to be hazardous to the health of the bees. 

marigolds are an excellent natural bug repellent

Instead, if you’re looking for pest control in your garden, go with the natural options. Plants like marigolds, mint, and lavender are known for being an excellent way to deter annoying bugs and insects while still attracting bees for pollination. Although, you’ll likely want to still consider simply letting nature do it’s thing and not actively trying to keep pests out in the first place! The ideal scenario is to create a bee friendly garden that also welcomes all of nature’s creatures. 

Provide them with a little source of water for refreshment. 

Especially in the hot summer months, bees can easily get dehydrated and become thirsty. This is why we often notice an increase in their presence around pools from July to September. They’re on the lookout for water! When you’re able to provide bees with a safe source of water to drink from, you’re not only helping them rehydrate, but you’re helping restore their health and regulate their body temperature, which keeps them pollinating and feeding their hive. 

Using a small bird fountain or supplying a miniature garden fountain are great ways to help provide bees with a source of water. This keeps them returning to and pollinating your own garden as well. They can also become habitual, so once they’ve found a water source, they’re likely to continue returning to it. Make sure you check it regularly to refill with water! Also, keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be a large pond or a huge bowl of water. Bees are small, and aren’t likely to need too much to drink. 

Plant bright and beautiful bee-friendly florals and herbs! 

bee pollination on flower

Certain plants and flowers are more likely than others to entice bees into your garden. Herbs like oregano, mint, rosemary, and lavender are equally delicious to bees as they are to many humans. Planting them in your garden is an easy way to bring some fresh ingredients into your kitchen as well as to encourage bees into your garden. 

Additionally, beautiful floral plants can not only bring tremendous colors into your garden, but they provide an excellent source for bees. Daisies, goldenrods, black-eyed susans, sunflowers, and foxgloves are just a few. You’ll want to do some research in this area to make sure that the plants you’re picking are not only great for bees, but native to your home state as well! Avoid bringing in plants that aren’t native as they can be more destructive. 

Ground cover plants are also a great way to bring bees into your garden and can help to fill a beautiful garden space without growing too tall or high. Some ground cover plants that bees like include elfin thyme, green and gold, and bugleweed. 

Plant perennials and plants that bloom as early as spring until late into the fall.

Most plants have a specific time of year that they bloom during, and very few plants actually bloom all year long. However, in order to ensure your bees have a source of pollen for as much as possible during the year you can time it so that you have an assortment of plants that bloom at various times of the year from spring to fall. Some will bloom in the spring, others during the summer, and others still during the fall. This means your bees will have something in bloom for almost the entire year!  Make sure you do a fair amount of research before buying certain flowers at your local garden center, or ask an employee about native plants and when they bloom during the year. 

Similarly, perennials are an excellent option for your bee garden. Perennials are hardier plants that will bloom during the warm months, but go into a sort of hibernation mode during the winter in order to survive. This means that they won’t die, and you won’t be forced to buy entirely new plants year after year (annuals). 

Make sure your bee garden has plenty of access to sunshine.

It’s no secret that sunshine is essential to the health and wellness of any garden! Sunshine aids in photosynthesis and in the growth and blossoming of most plants and flowers. Many of those very same perennials and bloomers that will attract bees to your garden, will need a fair amount of direct sunlight in order to prosper. Make sure you don’t hide your bee garden behind a wall that keeps them shaded or next to a giant tree that blocks out most of the sunlight. 

Avoid high-traffic areas of your yard.

bees swarm in a garden

Bees in general want to simply live out their life in peace. They don’t actively seek out to sting people or be a nuisance.  The best way to encourage them to thrive is to plant your bee garden in a space that has low human and animal traffic. Avoid planting your garden right by your backdoor or on the walkway into your house. The more people walk by, the less likely the bees are to settle down there. When they have peace to fly about and pollinate the plants, they’re going to have a much less stressful and a much more successful time!

Be mindful of where your dogs or cats or other family pets prefer to romp around, as well. As much as we love our pets having free range of the backyard, it’s not always an ideal situation for encouraging bees. Dogs running through or marking their territory can destroy precious flowers that are ripe and ready for bee pollination. 

Save the Bees with a Bee-Friendly Garden

Taking simple steps to plant and grow a garden that supports the life of bees is an easy way to help the natural order of life. It’s no secret that we need bees for our very own survival, so planting bee-friendly flowers and plants and using these 6 simple tips can have a huge impact on your local bee population!