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Author Topic: Help with starting a bee- and butterfly-friendly garden  (Read 4149 times)

Offline CarolNewBee

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Help with starting a bee- and butterfly-friendly garden
« on: August 21, 2012, 12:32:52 pm »
Hi everyone,

I just joined and am new to all of this.  We're in Colorado, hot, dry, LOTS of sun.  I am totally new to both gardening and bees.  Thinking about maybe starting a hive, but need to get the garden going first.

Have a south plot 10' x 53' with no shade, sits in sun all day.  Lots of clay. Grass fails.  We want to xeriscape with perennials, and yes, I will be researching this further.  However, would appreciate knowing what kinds of plants and flowers bees and butterflies love.  If we can get that going by next spring, maybe a backyard hive will be next.  Any suggestions would be very welcome, and if I can shortcut my research time by picking all of your bee-brains maybe I can become a bee-brain too.   :)

We want to start an organic vegetable garden in the back yard where there is lots of shade, and some sun-only areas.  Thinking about big planter boxes (4' x 6' or thereabouts) so we can use clean, organic soil and know exactly what's in it and bypass all the clay and who knows what else is in the ground.  I figure if there are bee-friendly perennials we can put in the soil in the south plot, the bees will find it and so will the butterflies.

Thanks in advance for any help you can give. 

Offline MrILoveTheAnts

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Re: Help with starting a bee- and butterfly-friendly garden
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2012, 11:43:22 pm »
Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa comes to mind. It's a milkweed and thus a host plant to the Monarch Butterfly.

Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, is an excellent nectar source for honeybees. It's also drought tolerant once established.

Coneflowers, Echinacea sp. are also very drought tolerant once established. You need a fair sized patch of them to really get honeybees paying them attention though.

Goldenrod, Solidago sp. is also very drought tolerant plant that honeybees love. Goldenrods are fairly common roadside weeds, but there are a few species that are garden appropriate.
Showy Goldenrod, Solidago speciosa, has a nice quality to it but can slowly reseed around.
Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks' is a medium height plant that doesn't really fall over. They do spread by root suckers somewhat but I don't think it's anywhere near as aggressive as some of the road side species.   
Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece' is more of a ground cover that slowly creeps along. Honeybees don't seem to go for this one as much but it's still worth mentioning.

Offline BlueBee

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Re: Help with starting a bee- and butterfly-friendly garden
« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2012, 12:10:19 am »
First, I think clay is under rated!  Clay holds more moisture and more ions than any other soil.  The big negative with clay is the poor aeration.  If you put your clay (or a mix there of) in a raised bed, you solve a lot of the aeration issues while retaining the good things about clay.  In a sunny, hot, dry climate like CO, that might be a water wise approach; or at least something worth investigating more.  Mulch the clay to prevent the top from turning to concrete.   

We have heavy clay in my area and it has been a God send in this summer’s drought.  The corn came through in really good shape here, only because of the clay.  There are areas where the glaciers left more of a sand/loam mix and that corn is toast.  OK, PURE clay is not great; but I prefer a clay loam over a sand loam because it comes through droughts better.

If you’re planning on growing any root crops (carrots, potatoes, dahlias), the sandy loam is much better than clay only because the roots can mechanically expand easier. 

Everything Mr Ants said is good.  So are the simple things like white clover in the lawn for the bees.  Bees also like many types of trees for pollen.  Trees/bushes are also a host plant for many of our native moths and butterflies. 

Offline triple7sss

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Re: Help with starting a bee- and butterfly-friendly garden
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2012, 02:45:31 am »
Russian Sage - I swear every other house in CO has a bunch or two of Russian Sage and it seems to really thrive in our climate with hardly any maintenance.  Stop and take a look next time you see a clump and get a sense of just how many bees are working the plants.  It's incredible...it's like a Country Buffet for bees.


Offline bernsad

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Re: Help with starting a bee- and butterfly-friendly garden
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2012, 05:54:09 am »
It's always better to renovate a clay soil rather than a sandy one. The remedy is the same, plenty of organic matter, but the clay opens up and holds more nutrient and moisture than a sandy soil.


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Re: Help with starting a bee- and butterfly-friendly garden
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2012, 10:30:21 am »
MY wife loves the butterfly bushes, planted 3 this year, also I ordered Astor seeds for the bees to live off of in the fall. Got 3 different varites.  You can go to the internet and see which plants are butterfly and bee friendly, what I did..JPP
 The butterfly bushes she planted this year are "black knight" . ones she already had were a yellow go together well//

Offline Maryland Beekeeper

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Re: Help with starting a bee- and butterfly-friendly garden
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2012, 05:24:12 pm »
I purchased 5 Tetradium Danielli saplings this summer. I've heard B's lovem. Looking forward to next year. Will report results.