Our bee garden...am I doing this right?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Location
    Honea Path, SC, USA
    Posts
    1

    Default Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    Hi everyone, brand new here. We won't actually begin beekeeping until March of next year, but are well into the planning stages of our bee garden. We've got an acre of grassy field, and will be turning the back 1/4 all the way across the lot into a designated bee garden. I guess I'm just hoping for some confirmation that the plants I'm planting will be desirable and beneficial to our hives. Our garden will be 120' x 20'. The plan is to plant a thick row of sunflowers across the very back, a hedge of lavender in front of that, a row of coneflower and other flowering perennials, and then 2 rows of a mixture of thyme, oregano, basil, mint, Rosemary, sage and chives. Anything I should add or remove?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Mariposa, CA
    Posts
    33

    Default Re: Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    In my area I am concerned about what is blooming by the season. I think your list is good. Search Google with this for more ideas. "year round bee garden by season". Flowering trees are also a big boost.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Springfield, OH
    Posts
    80

    Default Re: Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    I'd throw some borage in there, my bees are all over it. I've got quite a few sunflowers, they are beneficial to a lot of bees but I have yet to see one of my honeybees visit them.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Todd County, Minnesota, USA
    Posts
    280

    Default Re: Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    You could include anise hyssop, obedient plant, and borage with your perennials. The bees love all three of them. Not sure what else you are planning. Will you have any plants/trees for early spring nectar/pollen? Maple, willow, fruit trees? Not sure what trees grow in your area that bees like, but basswood yields heavily here (MN) in early July.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    4,171

    Default Re: Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    While your bees may certainly use your flowers from time to time, a single hive uses more then 10 thousand acres to forage, so a few plants in a couple of rows here and there may not get the attention you hope to see. The entire quarter acre would get heavy attention if planted to one thing, but then what would your bees work on close to your hives whan that particular plant wasn't in bloom? Flowering trees and shrubs are bigger nectar and pollen producers if you want to plant something that will give them a boost. Escpecially those plants that bloom early or late for your area when supplies are scarcer.

    Sometimes all it takes is skipping mowing the lawn for a week or so when the white clover is in bloom, or the thyme flowers. My dear husband is used to me sometimes asking to skip mowing an area until it has stopped blooming.

    Naturally all beekeepers are keen to observe their bees at work, but few people have large enough properties that they can say with confidence that their bees will "eat at home". Bees are champions at finding what they need from hedgerows, waste areas, weeds, woodlots, swamps, and suburban gardens.

    If you plant a wide mix of plants, with just a few dozen examples of each, you may not find your honeybees working on them. But you will find all kind of other pollinators that are less demanding of the large quanties of nectar that honeybees collect to make into honey.

    Garden plants for bees by Peter Lindtner is a good book. Your library may have it.

    Honey plants of North America by Harvey Lovell and American honey plants by Frank Chapman Pellet are both books specifically about plants that make good honey crops, including wild plants.

    Enj.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Todd County, Minnesota, USA
    Posts
    280

    Default Re: Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    enjambres is correct, however, I still urge people to plant all the flowering plants they can.

    We live on a 240 acre farm, surrounded by other farms which range from 40-500+ acres. We have white clover all over our place, as do many of the neighboring farms. We have basswood, wild raspberry and strawberry, many, many acres of milkweed, goldenrod, thistles, jewelweed, catmint, asters, goatsbeard, wild geraniums, and I can't even think of all the rest of the wild plants we have, but there are acres of them.

    Right now, my bees are going nuts in my garden, on borage, bachelor buttons, obedient plant, the mints (I grow a dozen different varieties), and anise hyssop in particular, but also on many of my other flowers as well. Today I counted over 50 bees on one anise hyssop plant- and I have dozens and dozens of them. So, while a few dozen plants are not going to fill a super with honey, there are a bunch of bees working my garden right now, so whatever is in there is obviously more attractive to them than what is growing wild around here, and if they are working it, then it must be helping them, IMO.

    Later this fall I will be scattering poppy, borage, anise hyssop, bachelor button, obedient plant, coreopsis, bee balm, salvia, and coneflower seeds all along both sides of our 1/4 mile long driveway. We have a space that is 1/4 mile x 20' on both sides of the driveway which I hope to have flowers growing in next year. I can hardly wait to see the bees working that.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Robeson County, North Carolina
    Posts
    725

    Default Re: Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Clairesmom View Post
    enjambres is correct, however, I still urge people to plant all the flowering plants they can.

    We live on a 240 acre farm, surrounded by other farms which range from 40-500+ acres. We have white clover all over our place, as do many of the neighboring farms. We have basswood, wild raspberry and strawberry, many, many acres of milkweed, goldenrod, thistles, jewelweed, catmint, asters, goatsbeard, wild geraniums, and I can't even think of all the rest of the wild plants we have, but there are acres of them.

    Right now, my bees are going nuts in my garden, on borage, bachelor buttons, obedient plant, the mints (I grow a dozen different varieties), and anise hyssop in particular, but also on many of my other flowers as well. Today I counted over 50 bees on one anise hyssop plant- and I have dozens and dozens of them. So, while a few dozen plants are not going to fill a super with honey, there are a bunch of bees working my garden right now, so whatever is in there is obviously more attractive to them than what is growing wild around here, and if they are working it, then it must be helping them, IMO.

    Later this fall I will be scattering poppy, borage, anise hyssop, bachelor button, obedient plant, coreopsis, bee balm, salvia, and coneflower seeds all along both sides of our 1/4 mile long driveway. We have a space that is 1/4 mile x 20' on both sides of the driveway which I hope to have flowers growing in next year. I can hardly wait to see the bees working that.
    Do you make your own mix? I've looked at the pollinator wildflower mixes and quite frankly, they are way overpriced. Especially the eastern mixes.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    4,171

    Default Re: Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    The main horticultural problem with getting flower mixes going is the need to remove and continue to suppress whatever vegetation is there currently. If you just scatter most seeds over existing plants you will mostly be wasting your money and effort. You need to kill the plants, till, or disc, several times to get rid of the "weed" seeds, then sow your flower mixes. And then sometimes they are very short-lasting as the native plants (many of which are good for bees) reassert themselves.

    Some of the tougher plants like coreopsis and prairie coneflower may be successfully overseeded, but things like anise hyssop, borage, poppy, batchelor buttons, etc. will have a hard time getting a toe-hold, if at all. Even if it seems like these plants will self-seed and spread easily in a garden, the outcome is very different when they have compete with perennial "weeds".

    I keep putting the word "weeds" in quotations to draw attention to the fact that weeds are often very good nectaries for bees and can be maintained with little to no effort because they are native, or highly adapted to local conditions and would thrive on their own. I have a ten-acre marsh that crosses both sides of my farm driveway, right now it is covered with Joe Pye weed and boneset (I have long suppressed the purple loosestrife, despite it being a good nectar plant, simply because it is also highly invasive.) This will be followed by goldenrod and asters. And earlier it was covered with pussy willows, winter berry holly, coltsfoot, honeysuckle, and milkweeds. Nothing I could plant would be as effective in feeding my bees as this assortment of self-maintaining "weeds". and my annual effort on their behalf is nil.

    Please don't think I am discouraging you from planting for pollinators (including honey bees). But the biggest effect for your time and effort is not annual or even perennial garden plants, it's flowering trees, or some of the more productive flowering shrubs. A few big black locust trees will make a honey crop, all by themselves, as would basswood or tulip poplar. But they are also take years to come into flower. If you want to establish stands of good bee plants in your garden then go ahead, because it is fun to watch your girls up close. But few of these will do anything more than contribute in a very small to a mixed-flower honey crop. Consider also letting some of the crucifers in your garden (early cabbages, all kinds of radishes, broccoli, etc.) go to seed late in the season. These will get a lot of use by your bees and you will have one less garden chore.

    Enj.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Location
    Panama City, FL
    Posts
    102

    Default Re: Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    Depending on where you live a Loquat tree would be a great thing for the bees in late fall and winter. Also wild mustard.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Lake Forest Park, WA
    Posts
    379

    Default Re: Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bowfinger View Post
    Depending on where you live a Loquat tree would be a great thing for the bees in late fall and winter.
    I have been thinking of planting one. I know loquats can be grown successfully in Seattle. My place gets a bit colder but it may still be okay. I like the fruits, too.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Tsawwassen, BC, Canada
    Posts
    488

    Default Re: Our bee garden...am I doing this right?

    Great plants for the garden (and to give away to every neighbour possible!!) are:

    -catmint...not catnip, catMINT...a hardy perennial repeat bloomer that bees love and mixes well in the border
    -Joe Pye weed...there are now many varietals out there
    -lovage
    -mints and herbs
    -fennel (bronze fennel looks great in mixed borders)
    -sedums and Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) in fall
    -clovers of all kinds, succession sown to extend season

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