Why and How to Plant a Bee Garden

By Abby Dudley
Photography: Nicole Burkhardt + Cayla Zahoran

Some consider them dangerous, others daunting. In reality, bee gardens are desirable and doable. Encouraging pollinators to visit your yard with a lovely selection of flowers nourishes the ever-dwindling bee population, while adding the color that you’ve been missing. Convinced? Here’s our official guide to planting the bee garden you didn’t even know you wanted.

Start your bee garden by planting native flowers that attract bees. Certain types of flowers require more significant pollination to bloom, thus allowing bees to operate and pollinate. Flowers with protruding cone centers that grow as they receive more pollination, for example, serve as the perfect base for your garden. Echinacea, black-eyed Susans, daisies, cosmos, and sunflowers are all within this family. Indigenous to our region, we have found these varieties to be some of the most successful attractors. The assortment of bright purple, white, and yellow shades will also bring a muted yard to life.

If you prefer variety within your garden, as bees do, too, then the next step is to plant tall spires. These are flowers with multiple blooms growing vertically that attract more than just bees — butterflies and moths will frequent these plants as well. Lilac, lavender, and snapdragons will increase pollinator traffic in your garden and break up a monotonous configuration of flowers.

Other plants that help these insects thrive include zinnias, buttercups, pepper plants, thyme, and other herbs. Remember: It’s important to use pesticide-free products, not only in the garden, but in your home, too.

Those of us who don’t boast a green thumb, who would rather enjoy the beauty of nature from afar than be instrumental in its development, can breathe a sigh of relief at the above instructions. The best part about installing a bee garden is that it is easy. By nature, these plants are perennials, meaning they don’t need to be watered as often and they don’t need to be planted more than once. Dividing these plants every three years to control rapid growth and rejuvenate old life is enough to sustain what, for bees, is lifesaving.

A final touch? Add a birdbath to your garden. Bees like an area to dust off the excess pollen from a day’s work. Use it as an opportunity to make the area unique with baths available ranging from minimalist to mosaic to magenta.

So, strap on your Crocs and tie back your hair because we’re having trouble finding reasons not to plant a bee garden. Support nature’s hardest workers with a little piece of land that’s both beautiful and vital.

How to Plant a Bee Garden

Day lilies are a bee-friendly planting option.

How to Plant a Bee Garden

English lavender is ideal for this planting purpose.

How to Plant a Bee Garden

Want more buzz on bees?

Pick up a copy of the August/September 2013 issue of Edible Allegheny Magazine, or visit edibleallegheny.com.

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