Building a Bee-Friendly Garden

by Elaine Rude, Master Gardener

If you’re thinking about getting into gardening this season, make sure you keep in mind the bees. Creating pollinator friendly habitats is a great way to support beneficial insects in your home gardens. To build a ‘bee-friendly’ garden you need to include the ‘Big Three:’ food, water and habitat. We’ve made it easy for you to set up your bee-friendly garden this summer by following this easy set up:

Image courtesy of Elaine Rude.

Not surprisingly insects need reliable and continuous sources of pollen and nectar throughout the growing season. Early Spring and late Fall can be especially challenging so try to incorporate early and late blooming plants into the garden. Minor bulbs such as Squill, Chionodoxa, Crocus and early perennials such as Prairie Crocus and Hepatica are excellent sources of food in early Spring while asters, Goldenrod, Joe-pye, coneflowers, sunflowers and tall Sedum provide a bounty in Fall. Including a mix of blooming trees and shrubs like willows, Saskatoons, Golden Currant, Buffaloberry, cherries, roses, Potentilla and fruit trees provides an abundance of food throughout the season. Annuals such as poppies, Bachelor buttons, Cleome and Phacelia are very popular with a number of pollinators. Generally, the goal is to have at least three species blooming from April thru to September.

Having a variety of flower shapes, sizes and colours is an excellent way to support a host of pollinators of different sizes. Single blooms supply the most pollen and nectar. Planting in groups also makes it easier for insects to forage.

Image courtesy of Elaine Rude.

All living creatures require water and pollinators are no different. There are many ways to add water into a garden including ponds, small bubbling fountains and bird baths. Insects need somewhere shallow to sip so including a small sandy beach at a pond’s edge or a dish filled with small rocks and pebbles for them to perch on is ideal. Butterflies love a small patch of wet soil.

Images courtesy of Elaine Rude.

The last important criteria for a pollinator friendly garden is habitat. Pollinators need a place to rest and hide from predators, a place to raise their offspring and a place to spend the winter. Flowering plants bring in pollinators but once there it’s important to keep them all year. Creating a diverse layered landscape that includes trees, shrubs, flowering perennials, bunch grasses and groundcovers provides plenty of nesting and overwintering sites.

Building a pollinator friendly garden takes time but if you plant it they will come. Including the ‘Big Three’ (water, food and habitat) is an ideal way to establish a balanced garden ecosystem that requires little from us but to sit back and observe.

Show us your bee-friendly garden this summer by tagging us on Instagram!