Many of us put much thought and planning into attracting bees to our summer flower and vegetable gardens. But come fall and winter, we often seem to forget about our buzzing friends!  

Now is the perfect time to start preparing our gardens to keep the bees happy through the coming seasons. Here are a few ideas.

Many types of bees nest in the ground and in other natural matter like hollow and pithy core twigs and stems.

As you tidy up the garden, be sure to leave some bare and unkept areas along the garden edges. And instead of cutting those withering plants all the way back to the ground, consider leaving the dead stems standing at least 12-inches. A bee might just make one their next home!

Add some late and early season plants with bee-friendly flowers.

This will provide bees and other pollinators with important nourishment when sources are scarce, and you will be rewarded as the blooms will bring some brightness to the dreary, gray Pacific Northwest winter days.

  • Witch hazel will add deeply fragrant, spidery flowers of yellow and copper to your garden.
  • Oregon grape provides a pop of bright yellow followed by blueish-black berries.
  • Purple, pink and golden heaths and heathers are bee magnets.

In the vegetable garden, leave mustard, cabbage and other Brassicas alone so they can bloom into the winter. 

Plant a cover crop in your vegetable garden.

Consider fava beans, crimson and white cover and hairy vetch – these cover crops are simple to grow and will make sure your garden continues to provide flowers for bees and pollinators during the off-season.

They will also improve your garden soil supplying rich nutrients, breaking up soil and suppressing weeds.

You will be happy that you had the foresight come spring – the future you will be grateful.

Clean up any garden debris that may harbor disease.

If you can start off with a healthy garden next year, you will avoid the temptation to use pest control methods that may be harmful to bees and other beneficial insects.

While it is good to leave some hollow and pithy stems in place for nesting bees, other plants like tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers are best removed. The same goes for fallen fruit.

Check out these great resources!

Want to learn more about supporting bees in fall and winter gardens?

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