Gardening In Small Spaces For Bees
You don’t have to have acres of space covered in flowers in
order to help the bees. The trick is to
make the best of what you have got. If
all you have is a balcony, use hanging baskets and pots.
I once saw a wall covered in hanging baskets
filled with flowers. Even a vertical
wall can be turned into a feeding station for bees!
So, it’s not always the amount of space you have, but
what you do with it that counts. Small spaces can provide habitat and food for
bees if that is what you set out to do.
However, I also recommend that if you only have a small
garden or yard, create something you too will enjoy!
I have a fairly small garden at home.
Above is a small informal flower patch I created by
deliberately planting some flowers and bulbs, but also throwing a mixture of
seeds onto the ground. I really like
this informal look, but actually, a formal garden, if planted with good nectar
and pollen plants, can also be effective as long as you leave out the chemicals.
I have a curving border as well, planted with geraniums,
cornflower, daisies, lavender and more, but also miniature fruit trees (plumb, pear, apple) - not visible in the image below.
If you have a small space, my tips are:
- Create areas or small zones, and create a garden you love. Small zones could include perhaps an informal flower patch, a fruit/vegetable
area, a border. All of these, including the fruit and veg patch, can be helpful to pollinators - or you could carefully plant fruit and veg crops into your border.
It can be tempting to
created narrow borders at either side of a small space and assume you have no
room for anything else, except a path running up the middle. But on paper, why not plan a few features
into your garden instead, imagining how it will look if you weave borders in and out, with miniature wildlife and bee and pollinator friendly zones.
- Grow up as well as down to maximise space. Climbers can grow up arch ways, through
trees, and up drain pipes. Choose an
appropriate climber for your circumstances, and ensure the supporting structure
is strong enough. Bees love honey suckle, jasmine, passion flower, old fashioned climbing roses, wisteria. Fruit trees can be
trained to grow against a wall.
- Try to ensure long flowering seasons, and
remember that some spring flowers and bulbs will die back. Their space can then
be taken or covered by a spreading plant such as geranium, which will flower
later. I have sprawling geraniums. In early spring, the daffodils and snow drops flower, then die back, but are eventually covered by the geranium leaves and flowers.
- Shrubs can again grow upwards and create
efficient foraging, as can miniature trees as stated. You could also experiment with 'standard specimens'.
- Consider using hanging baskets, pots and
window baskets. Hanging basket can even
be hung from trees if they are not too heavy and there is sufficient light.
- Include a solitary bee houses in your
garden. A bird box may provide a home
for some bumblebee species.
- Allow clover to flourish in a small patch of
- A small wildlife pond is also useful. A muddy bank can provide much needed nest building materials for mason bees, and the pond can be filled again with plants bees like, such as iris and mimulus guttatus.
- If you have a small front garden, use that
- For interest, be sure to keep an area where
you can sow with interesting annual flowers that bees like, perhaps on an
- Include wildflowers loved by bees in your
border or flower patch. We have
dandelions here and there, hedge woundwort, purple loosestrife, poppy, fox
glove, forget-me-not, cornflower, selfheal, bird’s foot trefoil, clover and daisy.
- If you are wanting to grow food, consider
beans, corgettes, peas and also fruits, and allow some of your vegetable plants to flower, such as
onions. Kale is superb when it flowers,
and attracts many bees. It grows quite
tall, and carries fragrant yellow flowers.
Below is a picture of the kale growing in our allotment. We harvested from it from last year until early spring, and then allowed it to flower. It's possible to harvest a few leaves even whilst flowering. Bees love it!
As I said before....
make sure you also love your
For several years, I experimented by leaving our garden
to ‘go wild’. I allowed wildflowers to
pop up, and wild grasses, and attempted to establish a few plugs and seeds. I used to mow a ‘path’
through my ‘meadow’ every so often.
However, whilst it can work very well in some circumstances, what was the result for us?
- A small space we ourselves could hardly use and enjoy.
- Mostly low-value grasses, not many wildflowers became
- Very few bees – in fact, hardly any!
Since I turned our garden into a space we could enjoy,
including lots of plants loved by bees, we enjoy our garden far more, have fresh
produce, AND we have more bees and other wildlife visitors in the garden!
We are also organic, of course.
Squeezed into a small space, there is:
- Greenhouse (for starting my vegetables and growing tomatoes)
Until late summer 2013, I was growing food too (and still
But I now have an allotment, where
I do most of my fruit and vegetable growing.
I still have a blueberry bush, raspberries, a blackberry, plum, cherry,
pear, and a small (not very productive) apple, in the garden at home.
There are also strawberries and a rocket bed, because I like rocket
leaves with salad.
So the lesson is, make the best of what you have. You don’t need to have a messy garden, or
lots of space in order to help the bees.
It’s what you do with the space that matters, and a small space can provide food, nectar, and even a place to nest for bees.
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