5 Ways to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden

Want to create a buzz-worthy garden? Learn how to attract bees and other essential pollinators with these tips.

By: Laura James
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Gardens serve many purposes. They give us something beautiful to look at, fruit and vegetables to eat and a place to relax and connect with nature. Pollinator-friendly gardens can offer all of that – arguably better than other gardens – while also providing a healthy habitat for bees, birds and insects.

Super Bee

Super Bee

Super Bee

Kate Frey, an award-winning garden designer, and Gretchen LeBuhn, a bee expert, teach gardeners how to plant an abundant garden that yields numerous benefits to both the gardeners and the bees in their new book The Bee-Friendly Garden.

Whether you’re planting a small or large garden in a rural, suburban or urban area, all bee-friendly gardens can help address colony collapse disorder, the phenomenon leading to the decline of honeybee populations. As discussed in the book, research has found that cities with more gardens have larger and more diverse bee populations.

Honeybee on Bachelor Button

Honeybee on Bachelor Button

Learn how to attract more honeybees like this one to your garden. Photograph copyright © 2016 by Leslie Lindell from The Bee-Friendly Garden, by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn, published by Ten Speed Press.

Photo by: Leslie Lindell ©2016

Leslie Lindell , 2016

Learn how to attract more honeybees like this one to your garden. Photograph copyright © 2016 by Leslie Lindell from The Bee-Friendly Garden, by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn, published by Ten Speed Press.

Not only do bee-friendly gardens help sustain bee diversity, they also attract predatory insects that keep pest insects from harming your plants and help increase the quantity and quality of your fruit and vegetable harvest. Frey says that of the many benefits of bee-friendly gardens, her favorite part is observing the life that they bring. “Spending time in a garden that is filled with flowers and the darting and hovering forms of many bees, plus butterflies, hummingbirds and song birds is an experience that stays with you,” she says.

Frey shared her top five tips for how to attract pollinators to your garden:

  • Determine what bee-friendly plants are appropriate for your region.
  • Plant lots of them. Think in terms of profusion. Make sure there is at least 3 x 3 feet of each plant species. These can be planted together, or in other areas of the garden.
  • Don’t use pesticides. Planting plants adapted to your soil, climate and pest and disease pressures ensures a healthy garden. Use compost for developing healthy soils. Healthy soils create healthy plants.
  • Plant your garden so that there is something blooming for as many months as you can manage. Bees need forage during the entire growing season, both native bees and honeybees.
  • Create a nesting habitat. Leave some soil bare for ground nesting bees – 70 percent of native bees are ground nesting. Put up bee nesting blocks for crevice nesting bees, too.

Although the success of bee-friendly plants varies depending on region, Frey says a few widely adapted plants include sunflowers, poppies, penstemons, lavender, calamint, sages, aster, goldenrod and catmint.

On the other hand, Frey says there are a few plants that won’t do much for attracting bees and a few that are even poisonous. “Some flowers have been so doubled that bees are effectively excluded from gathering pollen and nectar – plants such as some roses, dahlias, rudbeckias, gaillardias and others,” she says. Conifers, ferns, grains, grapes and oaks don’t really attract bees because they’re wind pollinated and not insect pollinated. “Some plants like the California buckeye have nectar that is toxic to honeybee larvae,” Frey says. 

The Bee-Friendly Garden Book Cover

The Bee-Friendly Garden Book Cover

Learn how to attract pollinators to your garden with tips from this book. Photograph copyright © 2016 by Leslie Lindell from The Bee-Friendly Garden, by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn, published by Ten Speed Press.

Photo by: Leslie Lindell ©2016

Leslie Lindell, 2016

Learn how to attract pollinators to your garden with tips from this book. Photograph copyright © 2016 by Leslie Lindell from The Bee-Friendly Garden, by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn, published by Ten Speed Press.

To learn more about how to attract pollinators to your garden, what plant species to plant – and not plant – and the resulting benefits, check out The Bee-Friendly Garden.

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