Your Guide to a Bee-Friendly Backyard


Your Guide to a Bee-Friendly Backyard

We know the world needs bees, and we know the world’s bees are in trouble. So, what can we all do to help?

Plant a pollinator garden! It’s one of the easiest--and prettiest--ways to positively impact the bee population.

Since so many parts of the country are struggling with soil depletion, water shortages, and more, you might find some unexpected assistance in setting up your garden. Before you purchase plants, contact your county’s soil and water conservation district. They probably offer an annual native plant sale, pollinator garden sales, or offsets to compensate you for your efforts. In my midwestern county, for instance, residents can apply to get money back on planting a pollinator garden that replaces invasive monoculture (aka, grass) or to get a rebate for installing rain barrels. And twice a year county residents can purchase garden kits, trees, and shrubs at a significant cost savings. So, before you dig, give your SWCD a call!

Why Native?

Native plants--those indigenous to your geography--evolved to thrive in your climate. They require less intervention and less daily care on your part. If you can choose between plant species that are imported or local to you, always go local. It’ll save you time and effort!

Plants to Consider

Know your zone, of course. Then, select species that are hardy to your zone and native to your area. Any of these attract pollinators and look beautiful as well and can thrive in many places across the United States.

When planting, group species together with the tallest toward the back of the garden to create an interesting, textural, and purposeful look.

  • Columbine
  • Sky Blue Aster
  • Lavender Hyssop
  • Wild Bergamot (aka, bee balm)
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Purple Prairie Clover
  • Stiff Goldenrod
  • Golden Alexanders
  • Prairie Dropseed

Milkweed is also an extremely popular and common addition to any pollinator garden. While this is necessary to the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly, milkweed is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, according to the ASPCA. If you’re going to plant this one, put it somewhere your pets avoid or fence it off.

Planting Tips

Look for yard space that’s well drained and sunny at least four to six hours a day. If you’re planting plugs, spread ‘em out. At least a foot is ideal. If you’re scattering seeds, know you’ll have to thin the garden once it starts to sprout. Mulch and water until your garden is established. Pull weeds by hand; spraying chemical pesticides or herbicides defeats the aim of a pollinator garden since those might affect the health of the bees.

No yard? No problem!

Containers make a perfect backyard substitute for patios, decks, or balconies. Depending on your climate, you may be able to over-winter your container gardens. Otherwise, keep track of what flourishes and what doesn’t so you can improve upon your space year to year.

Then, all that’s left is to kick back and watch the bees and butterflies enjoy your beautiful space!