How to Attract Bees Into Your Garden
Beneficial insects such as bees and other pollinators are a major part of a garden’s ecosystem. They play a key role and without them, we would not have fruit and vegetables to eat. Flowers produce nectar, basically a liquid sugar that includes a variety of vitamins, and this is a main food source for bees.
When bees feed on the nectar they collect pollen from the flowers on their bodies and this is transferred from one flower to another as bees visit multiple plants. This facilitates pollination, thereby fertilising the plant so it can produce its crop of fruit or vegetables.
Choosing the Right Variety
In recent years there has been a decline in bees on a global scale. To help these important insects you need to take an organic approach to your gardening and limit pesticides; instead, choose bee-friendly products.
Another critical factor is what you grow – there are many varieties of plants that will help draw bees and other beneficial insects back into your garden.
Plants attract bees through their flower colour and scent. Particular flower colours that bees are attracted to in their visual spectrum are blue, purple, violet, white, yellow and green (bees also ‘see’ ultraviolet which humans can’t).
There are five guidelines for choosing bee-attractive plants for your garden.
- Choose flowers with high pollen and nectar content.
- Choose flowers within the bee’s visual spectrum.
- Grow a diverse range of plants with flowers of different shapes and sizes. Plant these different varieties so there will be flowers throughout the bee season (from early spring to late autumn).
- Consider whether bees have access to the flowers. When planting your garden, place plants in a nice open situation so bees can see them. When bees are attracted to a particular species it a good idea to plant them in large groups together.
- Bees are very attracted to native varieties, so try and choose plants close to the native species as possible.
Where to Grow
Plant in sheltered locations and away from strong prevailing winds as these can affect bees.
Choose the sunniest part of the garden; it should receive at least 6-8 hours of sunlight when bees are most active.
Plants for Bees
Here are a few examples of plants you can grow for bees.
These annuals are also perfect for companion planting in your vegetable garden:
- Eschscholzia (California poppy)
Perennials are plants that live more than one growing season - up to three years or more. Varieties to try for bees are:
These varieties are commonly grown throughout New Zealand:
Herbs are one of the best groups of plants for bees – some of their favourites are:
Fruit tree flowers are also a bee favourite:
- All citrus
- Cherries (SI)
New Zealand Natives
Here in New Zealand, we have some lovely natives that bees adore:
Planting to Attract Bees
For healthy plants and flowers, what you plant into is very important. For best results prepare your soil a week or two before you plant out any categories of the plants we mentioned above:
- To prepare your garden, remove any dead or old plants and weeds.
- Evenly apply a generous layer of Daltons Enriched Compost or Daltons Organic Compost approx 40L per 2m2 and thoroughly work it into the soil. You can also add in Daltons Premium Garden Mix or Goldcote Planting Mix – depending on your garden type.
- As a guide, try and work it in to one to 1.5 spade depth. This ensures that the soil has been fully aerated and the compost has been mixed thoroughly with the existing soil, improving organic matter, nutrient content and microbial activity.
- If growing in raised planters or gardens, fill up the site with a combination of Daltons Enriched Compost and Daltons Premium Garden Mix.
Feeding and Watering
Strong healthy plants produce an abundance of flowers and will be attractive to bees and less susceptible to pest and diseases. Different categories of plants need different nutrients, and therefore require specific types of fertilisers:
For all summer annuals and perennials – apply a side dressing of Daltons Premium Rose & Flower Fertiliser every 4-6 weeks during the growing season (variety dependent).
Shrubs – apply a side dressing of Daltons Premium Tree & Shrub Fertiliser every 4-6 weeks during the growing season from late October to December, recommencing in late February till early April.
Citrus trees – apply Daltons Garden TimeTM Fruit & Citrus Fertiliser just outside the ‘drip line’ of the branches every 4-6 weeks as per shrubs above.
Fruit trees – apply Daltons Garden TimeTM Berry Fertiliser from mid-October to early December at 4-6 weekly intervals, recommence in March through to April, applying at the same intervals.
Water regularly to keep plants growing healthily; around twice a week until plants are well established and then drop it back to once a week (weather dependent). Avoid overwatering.
Apply a generous layer of Daltons Premium Mulch & Grow to improve plant health and soil moisture retention.
It’s important to have an organic approach when it comes to promoting bees in your garden (see our Daltons Organic Gardening guide for more information). Try and keep pesticides out – but if you do have to treat pests or diseases use low-toxic or bee-friendly products.
To ensure continuity of flowering, regularly deadhead your flowers throughout the growing season.
Tip: Bees play such an important part in a garden’s ecosystem. Give them a helping hand by avoiding pesticides and planting for year-round flowers.
Gardening Terms Explained
Annuals Only lasts a growing season.
Deadheading The removal of finished flowers to encourage continuous succession flowering.
Free draining soil Soil that is light and well broken up. Water can penetrate the soil and drain without pooling.
Perennials Plants that live more than one growing season, usually two to three years or more.
Replacement planting / succession planting Planting the same plant again as the previous one comes to an end.
Side dressing Means to apply fertiliser to the soil on or around the sides of the plant.