Saving the honey bees means not only planting the flowers they like, but also planting a lot of the flowers they like. I call this “abundant gardening.” The good news is that you don’t need a lot of land or a big yard. Here are a few tricks to achieving abundance.
- Grow at least one square yard of a bee-friendly flower. You need to capture the bee’s attention from afar and offer enough forage to tell other bees about it. (A honey bee hive depends on its scouts to look for good nectar or pollen sources and then report back to the hive.) For us, a large group of one type of flower can have a beautiful effect.
- Choose plants that grow well and easily in your local area. Seek out native plants. For a list of pollinator-friendly native plants in your area, go to Xerces Society’s Pollinator-Friendly Plant Lists.
- Simplify. Instead of planting lots of different flowers, focus on just a few flowers (ideally they would bloom at different times) that are high in nectar or pollen. Then plant lots of them. For ideas on flowers to plant, check out my Flower Power section. And check back for more flowers to come!
- Avoid “polka-a-dot” gardening. This is when full-grown plants are far apart from one another, with lots of mulch or soil in between. Instead fill those spaces in with more of the same flowers or with another flower choice. The goal is to have no mulch or soil showing when the plants are full-grown. This is more attractive and offers more forage for the pollinators.
- Plant a tree that honey bees like. One tree can offer thousands of flowers, far more than a few flowering plants. For a list of good honey bee trees, see my post “Want More Flowers? Plant a Bee Tree.”
- Get rid of some of your grass. Most of us have some grass we don’t need. By getting rid of even just a bit of the grass and replacing it with bee-friendly flowers, you could make a difference for the bees.
- Fill containers with a bee-friendly flower. I know containers filled with many different flowers are popular, but why not fill a container with one type of bee-friendly flower? It can be beautiful and you might be more likely to get a bee’s attention.
- Grow your flowers in fertile, rich soil so they will grow well. (Wildflowers may be the exception to that rule.)
How to garden abundantly without busting the budget
Buying lots of plants can get expensive. Here are some tricks to achieve abundance without a large price tag.
- Seek out companies that sell plants as plugs. Plugs are smaller plants sold at a smaller price per plant and can be a great value. Often sold as trays.
- Plant seeds. When you compare the price of a packet of seeds to the same number of full-grown plants, the price difference is amazing. Seeds just need some upfront care and attention.
- Make more plants by dividing perennials. Healthy, full-grown perennials can divided in the early spring.
- Choose plants that naturalize or spread. If they are happy with the growing conditions, they will grow and creep on their own. But stay away from invasive plants–they just cause other problems.
- If the flower produces seeds, you can plant a few plants, collect the seeds at the end of the season, then plant the seeds next spring.
- Swap plants with friends.
I find that I have to work on abundance. I have to remind myself to plant far more than the few plants I normally reach for. But a bountiful garden is a beautiful thing. By concentrating on just a few plants, it can also be a simpler and calmer way to garden. All the while you are feeding our bees and pollinators. Just one more example how gardening for the bees is also good for us.