I love having bees in my garden. Once I have planted my veggie garden for the season, one of the most important things to be done is to sit back and let nature take its course. Bees play a vital role in the food chain, offering their pollination services in exchange for nectar and honey. Bees forage from plant to plant, moving around constantly. When you attract bees to your veggie garden, your yields of edible food will be noticeably higher! It’s worth making the effort to plant some things around or near your veggie garden that will attract them so they can rub nectar and pollen off from one plant to another, saving you the need to hand pollinate your vegetables.
When planning a bee attracting planting, make it easy for the bees to find the food by planting similar plants together in order to provide an obvious location for them to forage.
Both native and honey bees love flowering eucalypts so if you can grow them in your area, and have the space, they are a worthwhile addition to your garden. Check that they will not end up shading your vegetables, competing for water or hanging their limbs over the roof of your house.
Plants That Bees Love
Bees seem to be attracted to some flower colours more than others, so try a variety of colours in your garden to ensure you have just the right thing for them. Some of the best bee attracting plants I have observed include:
1. Lavender is at the top of my list. Any variety will do. It’s drought hardy, once established and perfect for a Mediterranean climate. Easy to care for, lavenders flower for most of the year and can be used to create a lovely hedge if that is part of your design.
2. Rosemary is another one which can be hedged if you so desire, also flowers for many months, requires only small amounts of water once established and is difficult to kill. Great for using with your lamb roast, or on the BBQ to add flavour to an outdoor meal.
3. Agapanthus only flower for about one month of the year in early summer, but while they do, they provide much needed food at the height of the bee breeding season when the hive numbers are growing and more bees are out foraging to feed the babies and put down stores while they can. Hardy and drought tolerant, make sure you remove the spent flower heads as they can become weedy.
4. Hebes range in colour from white to pink to crimson or purple. Plant them in full sun or part shade, depending on the variety in groups of 3 or 5 to attract the bees and keep them in your garden for as much of the day as possible. The longer they are there, the more likely they are to forage around your flowering vegetables too. Hardy and easy to strike from cuttings you grow propagate your own if needed.
5. Echinacea, or cone flowers, are a wonderful addition to any garden with their bright pink, daisy like flowers. They have been used for hundreds of years as a natural herbal medicine and bees love them too. Lower growing than lavenders or rosemary, they provide another layer of height to your bee attracting garden.
6. Penstemons are a lovely perennial plant which can self seed thoughout your garden. With flowers ranging from pinks to purples and whites the bees love them and they provide a generous spike of colour in your garden for many months of the year.
7. Salvia, or sage, is another hardy, bee attracting plant which produces flowers from white, pink, red and purple so you can choose one which fits into a particular colour scheme if that is your plan. Flowering from early spring to late autumn they provide plenty of food for the bees and colour for your garden too. Easy to care for, when they have finished flowering, cut the dead heads off and they will come again and again.
8. Anything native to your area which flowers should bring bees. Choose hardy, low maintenance varieties to attract your local indigenous pollinators.
9. Nasturtiums provide terrific ground cover or natural mulch around fruit trees or can be trained to climb up trellises or posts. Flowering in late winter and very early spring, they will die back if you have hot summers, flowering in bright oranges, yellows and reds. Bees love them and because they flower in very early spring they provide fodder when there is often not much else for the bees around.
10. Herbs are wonderful for attracting bees and of course you get the added benefit that you can use them in your cooking too. Basil, thyme, oregano, coriander (cilantro), verbena, lemon balm and borage are all great additions to your garden for which the bees will be grateful.
You don’t have to have all of these plants in your garden to increase your bee traffic. If you prefer you could just have one or two species that you love. No matter which approach you take, the bees will be grateful for the food and your fruit and vegetables will benefit and produce more of the foods you had planned.