Tips for a bee-friendly garden

The welfare of bees and other insects is very important to many people. So we had an in-depth discussion with our partner, Bienenbotschaft (Bee Embassy), and have put together eight helpful tips and interesting background information for you to make your garden, terrace or even balcony bee and insect-friendly.
Important: When designing your garden, don’t just think of the bees but all insects in general. After all, the primary value of these animals lies in pollination, not honey production.

1. Feed the bees all year round

"When choosing plants for your garden and terrace, use native plants wherever possible since wild bee species will have adapted to local food plants,"" explains Moses from Bienenbotschaft. A wild species is always preferable to a cultivated species of plant. Avoid double flowers – they look nice, but having so many petals acts as a barrier between bees and nectar and pollen, making them pretty worthless as food. Instead, choose a mix of plants farmed organically that flower all year round and provide insects with food. Bees will thank you for providing such an abundant food supply, especially at the beginning and end of the vegetation period, i.e. spring and autumn. The plants below are particularly well suited:

Early Bloomers
Early bloomers
Bulbs like crocuses, winter aconite, wood anemone and grape hyacinth, but not cultivated forms of tulips. In terms of trees, the willow, which blooms from March to May, is a valuable source of food. They are available in different sizes and shapes to suit any garden.
Summer favourites - Phacelia (Bienenfreund)
Summer favourites
Bienenbotschaft’s number 1 bee-friendly plant for summer is phacelia, also known as Bienenfreund – friend to the bees – in German. Yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) is another excellent source of nectar. If you prefer to sow perennial meadow flowers, the best thing to do is to use native meadow flowers such as pigeon scabious, meadow sage or horseshoe vetch.
Native Flowering Shrubs
Native flowering shrubs
Hawthorn, blackthorn, wild roses, willow, cherry and flamingo willow are all great choices.
Bulbs
Bulbs
Tasty for humans, yes, but leek and onion flowers are popular with bees as well. Grape hyacinth, Star-of-Bethlehem, purple onion and wild tulips all make good ornamental plants. Cultivated tulips and double variants are less suitable.
Wild perennials
Wild perennials favourites
Between the ornamental perennials, find some room in your bee-friendly garden for these wild perennials: stiff hedgenettle, common hedgenettle, lamb’s-ear, dead-nettles, black horehound, motherwort, purple loosestrife, dotted loosestrife, wild teasel, thistle, Inula and ox-eyes.
Bee and Lavender
Culinary herbs
Plant thyme, any kind of sage, lavender and rosemary in your kitchen garden or spiral bed to keep bees happy.
Flowers
Mustard family
These plants from the mustard family provide bees with a rich harvest: wild mustard, white mustard, sweet rocket, winter cress, madwort, rockcress, yellow mignonette, dyer’s rocket, bittercress and purple rockcress.
Flowers
Meadow flowers
These varietals are a joy to behold in a meadow, so why not bring them home to your garden? Bees love bluebells, trefoils, cornflowers, meadow sage, esparsette, daisies, yarrow, bird vetch, bush vetch, scabiosa and widow flowers.
Automower 330X

2. Meadow or lawn?

Every gardener should ask themselves, ‘Would I prefer a meadow with beneficial weeds or a green lawn?’ There are strong arguments for both. On larger plots in particular, an extensive, well-tended meadow requires less mowing and provides a valuable habitat for wild animals. However, many families want a lawn without any clovers and other intruders so their children can romp around barefoot in the garden without being stung.

Cherry blossom

3. Bee-friendly trees, hedges and shrubs

Hedges, shrubs and trees are not only an important source of food, especially in cities, but also provide hiding and nesting places for numerous insect species,” reveals Antonio from Bienenbotschaft. So (different) individual bushes should be allowed to grow freely in select places and bear flowers and fruit, even in small gardens. Here too, a mixture of different varieties is ideal so that insects can find food throughout every season.

These shrubs are especially good for bees: Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), hawthorn (Crataegus) and wild rosebushes. When it comes to trees, try pussy willows (Salix caprea), fruit trees like wild cherry or apple and (although not native) bee-bee trees (Euodia hupehensis).

Rustic wall

4. It doesn't always need to be a huge meadow: spiral beds and 'wild corners'

Fragrant, tasty and, according to Bienenbotschaft, a real asset not only for bees and for us alike: spiral beds planted with herbs like sage, marjoram, thyme and the like offer a lot of food for insects. And they feed the bees all year round: rosemary blooms in spring, sage in the summer months, nasturtium even into September and thyme flowers up to October. In addition, the numerous holes, cracks and cavities found in these kinds of beds make for good insect nurseries for rearing offspring.

Flowers and plants

5. Bee and insect food on balconies and terraces

It’s easy to transform terraces and balconies into a bee paradise with flower tubs or boxes as well. Bluebeard (Caryopteris) is particularly well suited for this. More tips for plant pots that are extra bee-friendly:

  1. Late flowering mixture with flowers blooming until October: marigold, snapdragon and nasturtium.
  2. Herb/flower combination: lemon balm and thyme with bellflower or Tagetes marigolds.
  3. For nibbling and bee-watching: strawberry, aubergine, peppers or chillies or potted tomatoes.
  4. Fragrant herb pots: English lavender, sage, lemon thyme and oregano.
Bee hotel

6. Nesting aids for bees

In addition to suitable plants, nesting aids within a radius of 200 to 300 metres from the plants the bees use for foraging are essential for wild bees. Unfortunately, many of the wild bee nesting aids on the market do not deliver the benefits consumers want because they are made of unsuitable materials or are not constructed in the right way. The wild corners, old walls and piles of deadwood mentioned above are often already in place to help bees.

7. Don't forget the drinks

Even insects need to drink. Small coves in large stones or bird baths with a large stone placed in them and filled with water on sunny days make great places for bees to come for a drink. And garden ponds also make great water sources for many animals and insects, of course. By the way, did you know that many wild bees need water not only to drink, but primarily to build their nests? They use the water to ‘mortar’ their brood cells.

8. No pesticides

Those who prefer more natural garden landscapes tend to avoid pesticides and artificial fertilisers. There are almost always good, natural alternatives. The use of beneficial insects to combat pests has been tried and tested, and these insects can now be ordered easily and cheaply online. In case of doubt, removing or trimming diseased plants or plants infested with pests is also a better alternative in bee-friendly gardens.

HUSQVARNA’S TIP: Thanks to its battery-powered drive, Automower® not only mows quietly and with no direct emissions, but its mowing system also reduces the need for fertiliser and other products. Millimetre-fine grass clippings are immediately returned to the lawn as fertiliser. The mowing system, comprised of a mowing disc and small pivoting blades, generates hardly any suction, reducing the risk of insects on the ground being sucked up.

By combining different bee-friendly garden approaches, each and every home gardener can do their part to ensure the welfare of our precious bees.