Pollinate Success: 5 Tips for Planting a Bee-Friendly Garden

It’s been in the news for years now — our bee population is dying and this decline impacts our world tremendously. We rely on bees to pollinate crops that feed our country. Without bees, our food system will collapse right along with the colonies. If you think food prices now are hard to budget for, they will only get worse if the bee population isn’t restored.

So, what can individuals do about such a large problem? As with anything else, it starts with looking at what you’re doing at home. There are small things you can do to support your local bee population. The simplest step you can take is to make sure you’re keeping a bee-friendly garden.

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Bees are hardworking pollinators. Image courtesy of Bill Dickinson.

Go Native With Your Flowers

While you may love how exotic hybrid flowers look in your yard, they may not be the food source your local bees need. Plant a variety of local flowers and blooming plants in your yard to keep bees happy. Another benefit of planting native flowers is that they are generally more tolerant of your local climate, require less maintenance, and use less water.

Choose Plants That Bloom Year Round

Bees need food year-round, not just during spring and summer. So, make sure you have a few different varieties of plants that bloom at different times of the year. By making sure you have plants in bloom through every season, not only will the bees be happy, but it should keep you smiling too.

Use Only Natural Fertilizers and Herbicides

With so many options for natural fertilizers, it’s pretty easy to avoid chemical fertilizers in your garden. And it’s so important to avoid the use of herbicides in your garden. In addition to being toxic to bees, they aren’t safe for people who may come into contact with your garden — especially children. Fortunately, there are alternatives to dangerous herbicides — some, you can even make yourself!

Skip Pesticides and Don’t Buy Plants Treated With Neonicotinoids (Neonics)

Neonicotinoids are the most widely used pesticide in the world — and they’re believed to kill bees. Even if you avoid pesticides in your own yard, plants you buy from major retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s are often pre-treated with neonicotinoids. Shop with a local nursery that doesn’t use this toxic pesticide. For help controlling pests in your garden, look to nature’s pest control — praying mantises, ladybugs, and other beneficial insects can help keep garden pests in balance.

Create a Safe, Inviting Environment

Some bees burrow in the ground and others nest in wood. Leave an open space in your garden that gets plenty of sun to allow bees to burrow. You can also provide a pile of sticks or reeds for bees that would like to nest there — you could even set up a bee house. Also, make sure there is a water source for the bees. You can put pebbles or rocks into a container so they can safely land and access the water they need.

Feature image courtesy of Danny Perez Photography. Originally published on June 9, 2015, this article was updated in May 2022.