February is an interesting time for those with green thumbs. If you live in the north (by Beepods HQ), there are few visible signs of spring, but it’s still the perfect time to start thinking about a pollinator-friendly yard.
Seed catalogs are plentiful and the subzero temperatures of late February are a great catalyst for a weekend spent inside planning your garden. There are many considerations when it comes to planning a pollinator-friendly garden and we are here to provide you with a blueprint to get you well on your way.
Besides the actual choice of flowers and plants, it’s important to follow some general guidelines for how you arrange your yard. Here are the main points:
The flowers bees like to forage on tend to be sun-loving plants. Think of Sunflowers, standing tall and following the sun as it moves across the sky every day. Some of the most nutritious and nectar-rich flowers for bees prefer the bright light. Optimize this by creating habitat beds in the sunnier spots of your front or backyard.
Vegetables and herbs have high sunlight needs as well. If you’re looking to feed yourself and the bees, make sure you find a nice sunny spot for your nutrients. More on herbs and vegetables later in the blog.
When you plant for the bees, create a natural foraging environment. It definitely doesn’t need to be manicured. While it is beneficial to plant clumps of certain pollinator-friendly plants instead of single plants scattered throughout a habitat bed, you don’t need your yard to look like a precise work of art with clear delineations between plants.
In fact, pollinators do better when there are habitat patches close to each other, not spaced far apart in your yard. Plan your yard differently than you would a traditional garden. Plant a strip of wildflowers around your garden to help your pollinators.
Finally, plan for year-round blooms. Part of the excitement of planning a pollinator-friendly yard is creating a beautiful, blooming tapestry that evolves with the seasons. Depending on where you live, you can find planting guides that tell you which plants to plant to ensure you never have a bloomless yard, from March through November.
Planting guides will also tell you which specific flowers to plant to attract bees to your yard.
This seems really obvious, doesn’t it? But, in order to plant for the bees, you do need to have a good sense of what flowers bees like. Here’s the brief rundown:
It’s that simple!
Most of these pointers are straightforward, but let’s review what single blooms are in case you forgot. Actually, it’s easier to tell you what single blooms are NOT.
When you go to the garden store, you’re probably drawn to the fancy flowers with the dense head of petals. They look good, don’t they? Think of ornamental roses or peonies or carnations, even. They ain’t good for the bees, no matter how much you like looking at their pretty petals.
Why? Bees can’t access the pollen and nectar when the petals are that abundant. No pollen or nectar, no nutrition for the bees.
When it comes to herbs, you have lots of different options to make your food taste good and your bees happy.
Otherwise, think in color. Plant white, yellow, purple, or blue flowers. If you plant other color blooms, it doesn’t mean the bees will never visit those flowers, just that they prefer certain colors over others.
When in doubt, allow native flora to grow as it’s often a good source of nutrition for the bees, especially as the seasons change from summer to fall and the bees are trying to fit in last-minute foraging runs so their honey supply lasts them through the winter.
Which brings me to my next point:
Let go of trying to perfect your yard. You don’t need my permission! Weeds provide resources for bees. Yep. That includes dandelions. It includes Joe-pye weed. You know those pesky plants you look to get rid of, but just keep coming back no matter what you do? Leave them! Let them grow. Learn to appreciate them. They are flowers, too, after all, even if their blooms look a bit different or have a more subtle appearance than, say, a daisy.
Another actionable step you’ll want to consider when planting your pollinator-friendly landscape? Ditch the pesticides.
It may be tempting to use a quick solution to your overgrown weeds. Pesticides are certainly abundant and easy to use. However, they are generally terrible for pollinators and scientists still don’t fully understand the breadth of impact they have on bees’ reproductive habits, learning abilities, and genetic stability.
Plus, there are many organic or natural weed treatments available for order online or in your local garden store that can accomplish your weed-vanquishing goals without hurting the bees. In fact, you can find recipes online for your own, homemade weed killer that’s easier on the pollinators.
If your concern is insect pests, there are natural options for that, too, like sticky traps, trap crops, and pheromone traps. To take it a step further, why don’t you welcome the insects into your yard.
If you have an image of a honeycomb filled hive pop into your head when you think about honey bees, you aren’t wrong! Honey bees do live communal lives. Whether they are in a Beepods Beekeeping System or a hive in a hollowed-out tree trunk in the woods, you would see stacks of honeycomb if you were to look inside.
However, many wild bee species nest in the ground or in fallen logs and they live solitary lives. To create a pollinator-friendly yard, it’s best to leave some nesting habitat for the wild bees (and other bugs!).
In fact, a lot of wild bees use former nesting sites from other insects and small critters like chipmunks to build their homes. Therefore, it’s important to reframe your relationship to all life, big and small, as allowing living things to nest in your yard may ultimately benefit pollinators.
Bees need water, too, especially during the hot days of summer when they are in peak foraging season. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to put together a bee bath in your own backyard. All it takes is:
Make it a fun project with your family or friends. Design your own bee bath. Find a nice, sunny spot near your habitat patch and place your shallow, ceramic pot on a level surface so it doesn’t spill. Fill with fresh water. Place small sticks inside the pot, submerged in the water, and lean them against the edge of the pot. You could place a large stone in the middle of the container. Float old wine corks inside so the bees have an island to land on.
Make sure the bees have something to rest on and a way to get out of the pot if they accidentally fall in. You don’t want any unnecessary bee casualties.
When you create a bath for your bees, everybody wins.
Planting a pollinator-friendly landscape is an easy and relatively cost-effective way to do your part. With all the options out there for home gardening and container gardening (for the city dwellers), there is no excuse to not contribute in some way.
Even if it’s tossing a bag of wildflower seeds in your yard and hoping for the best, it’s a step in the right direction.
If you’re looking to plant from seeds, be sure to check out pollinator-friendly seed catalogs. There are lots of options out there and they do the research for you; you just have to buy the seeds and plant them.
Don’t forget, you benefit, too! If you have vegetables and herbs, watch them thrive in a pollinator-friendly environment. Enjoy the beauty of a natural habitat patch in bloom. It’s a win-win for you and the bees.