More and more people are trying to help out their local ecosystems by building pollinator gardens.
These are spaces where plants are specially chosen because they attract and support populations of bees and other pollinators. There are a variety of flowering plants that can be used in these gardens.
Building the perfect bee garden is easy! Just follow a few simple guidelines, and you can get started.
What Makes a Great Pollinator Garden?
One of the best things about building a bee garden is that it doesn’t have to be complicated.
You can put together a pollinator garden in many different ways that will be perfect for you and the bees to enjoy. This type of garden tends to be very low maintenance as well.
It can be any size, from a small little patch of dirt to a large backyard area.
What to Know Before You Get Started
You can be as basic or complex as you want with your bee garden.
There are just a few simple guidelines to follow:
- Choose colorful flowers that will attract bees and other pollinators.
- Opt for species native to your area as much as possible.
- The more variety, the better!
- If you like growing edible plants, there are plenty of great options.
- The spot you want to use should at least get partial sunlight during the day, so try to steer clear of fully shaded areas.
You don’t need professional gardening equipment for this project, but you’ll want to have gloves, a trowel, a hose, and suitable soil that you can use to create and maintain your garden. You will need to keep your garden adequately watered, at least until your plants are well-established.
Planning Your Pollinator Garden
While you can easily keep things simple, it’s best to have some kind of plan to make your bee garden just what you want it to be.
Choose a spot where you can enjoy seeing all the pollinators that come to visit but where bees and other creatures flying in and out won’t become a hazard.
Prepare the spot, clearing out any existing weeds, grass, or other material and loosening the soil. Prepare the soil with good compost to help your new bee garden grow healthy and robust.
If you want, you can define the space more with some kind of border. If you’re working with very limited space, don’t be afraid to keep it small. You can even make mini bee gardens in pots and window boxes.
What to Plant in Your Bee Garden
While you can technically make a pollinator garden with just about any flowering plant, you should be a bit more selective than that.
Try to find plants that are native to where you live as much as you can and that will look different all over the world. Native plants are great for pollinators, support other local species, and are well adapted to growing in your climate.
There are also plants that aren’t technically native but aren’t considered invasive either that you can plant if you like the look of them.
You can’t go wrong with lots of variety! Not only does this give more options to visiting pollinators, but it also helps ensure that new plants are blooming once others expire, and there is always something available to forage from.
You can purchase seeds or started plants, and it can be helpful to plant both to start so you always have something in bloom.
Going to a local garden center is a great way to get some help if you feel overwhelmed by all the options. They can help you pick out plants you love that will bring bees in.
Some examples of commonly used pollinator plants include echinacea (sometimes called cone flowers), sunflowers, wildflower mixes, bee balm, and calendula.
Tips to Make Your Bee Garden Extra Special
A pollinator garden really just needs the right plants, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get more creative with it.
When you have the perfect spot picked out, think about ways to dress it up. Since you’re working with a more natural garden type, you might want to focus the design on something that works with the environment. Rather than hard edging, you might want to opt for a more fluid garden shape with a gathered stone border.
Like a bee waterer, a small water feature is another great way to help your pollinators. They’ll have everything they need right in your garden! Just make sure you keep it shallow and add small rocks or marbles so they don’t drown.
What to Avoid
Some plants are what is known as “invasive,” meaning that they aren’t indigenous to the area but were introduced at some point and proliferated.
These plants aren’t necessarily bad themselves, but they create competition for native plant life that local species rely on. Invasives often grow out of control and can have a deeply negative impact on entire ecosystems. While you probably have invasives around already, it’s best to avoid introducing more.
There are also some plants that produce nectar or pollen that’s toxic to pollinators, especially non-native species like honey bees. They’ll typically avoid those flowers on their own, but they don’t belong in a bee garden.
For example, with the exception of the specific areas it’s native to, rhododendron nectar is toxic to other local pollinators. This doesn’t mean you can’t have these plants at all, but they don’t belong in a garden specially made for bees and other pollinators.
Make sure you avoid treating your bee garden with herbicides or pesticides of any kind. These products can seriously harm the pollinators you’re attracting and completely defeats the purpose of a bee garden.
You’ll also probably want to skip the mulch, as many pollinator species build their nests underground and will be negatively impacted by mulch.
Enjoy Your Beautiful Bee Garden
Your pollinator garden is totally personal to you, and you can continue evolving it over time if you want to.
Building a garden like this is a fun, easy, and environmentally friendly project almost anyone can do!
While you watch the visitors stop in, learn more about honey bees, one of the most popular pollinators.