“Life is about timing.” –Carl Lewis
Just like other activities in life, things generally go better, are more successful, when we plan. So too for a bee friendly garden. The best bee gardens offer something for the bees to eat nearly every day, in every season (except winter). This will maximize their collection of nectar and pollen, give them enough to eat, but will also likely improve their nutrition. Here’s how I plan for this in my garden.
We humans tend to organize our gardening year into 3 seasons: spring, summer, and fall. Yet for a successful bee garden, perhaps we should think about the gardening year as 6 seasons : Early Spring, Spring, Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer/Early Fall, and Fall. This is because most flowers do not bloom for a whole season (except for maybe annuals). By planning for 6 seasons, we are more likely to provide constant blooms, food, and good nutrition for the bees.
Are you thinking “6 seasons!”? Fear not, I have an easy method to keep track of it all.
A Simple Chart Can Help
When I am planning my flowers for the year, I find that it is easier with a chart. On a chart, you can note what flowers you already have in your yard or garden and when they bloom. A chart is really good at showing the obvious–which seasons you offer little food for the bees. Then you can plan for which flowers you want to add for the upcoming gardening year. Here is how I create my chart. See if it is helpful for you.
- On a piece of paper, starting at the top left and working my way down the side of the paper, I write the bee seasons (all 6), allowing for space. On the top line, working left to right, I write my major garden areas, such as vegetable garden etc. I draw columns to separate the different areas. If you have just one garden area–no problem–you can leave this area blank.
- In one color pen I write down all the bee flowers that already exist in my yard. (In my example, I used a black pen.) These could be perennials, trees, or shrubs that feed the bees in your yard.
- Then I take a look at the year. Do I have any seasons that have less flowers for the bees? You want to avoid periods of time when little or nothing is blooming. A quick look at my chart and it is clear that I need to add flowers for the Early Spring and Fall seasons.
- Finally, with a different color pen, (I used green) I write down all the flowers that I want to add to my yard (including the annuals that I add every year). I focus on flowers that offer great sources of nectar and/or pollen for the bees. This helps me plan for the year. Or it could be a multi-year plan too.
- Note: there are no set rules for how many flowers you should have in each season. The idea is to make the most of the space you have. If you have the space, I would aim for at least 3 good floral sources in each season. And if you have room for more, go for it.
- Try to plant at least 1 square yard (3′ x 3′) of each flower. Bees may not see your flowers, or not bother, if you do not have enough of them. If you have the right flower in your yard, but need more of them, note that on your chart as well.
- Need some flower ideas? Check out my Flower Power section for bee flower ideas.
- For Early Spring flowers, see my post Early Spring Flowers for Our Bees.
- For Fall flowers, see my post Great Fall Bee Flowers.
- Don’t forget about the different bee trees, which can offer thousands of flowers per tree. See my post Want to Feed the Bees? Plant a Bee Tree for ideas.
- For a list of bee-loving annuals, see my post Bees Love These Annual Flowers.
- Herbs are great for bees. And, yes, the post is entitled Herbs Are Great for Bees.
- Feel like you don’t have enough space to feed the bees all year long? Do the best you can with the space you have. You can also try planning with your neighbors to plant flowers for the different seasons.
- Finally, adapt my 6 season rule to your own climate and see what works best for your area.
A flower plan is a win-win for us and the bees. With just a bit of thought, we can create yards and gardens that feed the bees and feed our souls all year long.
Main photo copyright: dambuster / 123RF Stock Photo