Beekeeping for Beginners – The Basics Guide

Looking for a relaxing pastime activity? Why not try beekeeping?

Beekeeping is wonderful, enjoyable, and rewarding. For any budding gardener, beekeeping is quite satisfying. The health benefits and taste of honey itself should motivate you to start beekeeping.

What’s more, bees are good for the garden. Did you know bees pollinate over 80% of flowering plants on earth? A single colony can pollinate over 300 million flowers a day. You can imagine the benefits the bees will add to your garden.

For amateur beekeepers, the activity can be daunting when you don’t know where to start. What kind of hives do you get? Where do you set the hives?

In this post, I’ll guide you on the basics of beekeeping.

Beginner Beekeeping – Where to Start

You need to know where to start if it’s your first time keeping bees. Where do you keep the bees?

Bees don’t need a lot of space. But you need plenty of flowers for the bees to forage. 

The first thing for anyone looking to start beekeeping is to attend a course. You need to attend beekeeping and learn all the basics of beekeeping.

Search for a reliable course that lasts at least 16-20 hours. Attending a course will help you network with other beekeepers.

You can also search for a local beekeeping branch. The branch will have enough information on beekeeping in your local area. Learning and connecting with fellow beekeepers can help you learn and avoid costly mistakes from the start.

Find a Place to Keep the Bees

What place are you going to keep the bees? Do you have some unused farmland? Bees can do pretty well in the following areas:

  • Unused farmland
  • In your garden
  • Roofs
  • Rooftop gardens
  • Suburban allotments
  • Nearby apiaries

As indicated earlier, bees don’t need a lot of space. But you’ll need a lot of flowers for them to forage on.

Work out your budget and time available for beekeeping

You need a budget, as beekeeping does incur some costs. How much are you going to spend on hives and frames? Set a budget for the hives, frames, clothing, basic tools, feeder, and first bee nucleus.

Once you have the budget ready, check the available time you have for looking after the hives. Depending on the number of hives you’ll set up, you need enough time to care for each of them.

A single bee hive requires at least 30 minutes a week. Can you spare 30 minutes a week? If you have more hives, then you need to be sure you have enough time.

Equipment needed for beekeeping

With a beekeeping course done and a place to keep the bees located, it’s time you get the equipment.

Before you get the bees (which I’ll talk about shortly), make sure every piece of equipment is in place. Below is a list of essential beekeeping equipment:

  • A hive
  • Hive frames featuring a wax foundation
  • A single-piece bee suit
  • Gloves and boots for protection
  • A smoker which helps calm the bees
  •  A hive tool for inspecting the bees
  • A feeder when giving bees extra nourishment
  • A nucleus or a ‘nuc’ of bees which is a small honey bee colony

You need to have all the equipment in place and working. As for protection, consider a single-piece suit, with gloves and boots. Most bee supplies come with a starter which includes a hive and the necessary clothing.

Obtain the bees

You need your first starter or bee nucleus to start your first beehive. You need to know where to buy the bees. Consider buying your bees from local groups.

Some groups allow you to borrow and keep the hives for a short period as you monitor and decide whether to keep them permanently. They also provide an experienced supervisor within the period of monitoring.

Check local groups that offer bees for sale or rental. Since you’re a beginner, ask for easy colonies that are easy to rear.

Consider health and safety

If you’re keeping bees at home, then you need to consider your safety and those of your neighbors. Most beekeepers get stung and become immune to swelling over time. But a few can develop a severe reaction.

Consider having some epipen in case you’re stung. Talk with your neighbors about your plans and let them know you’re into beekeeping. Discuss your plans and advise them on necessary safety measures.

Understand your purpose for keeping the bees

Why are you keeping the bees in the first place? Make sure you know the purpose. 

Most people keep bees for honey and wax. But you can also keep bees for biodiversity and the environment. I’ve already mentioned the importance of bees in your garden.

You can also keep bees as a hobby. It’s an entertaining exercise that will keep you happy and engaged.

Why It’s Important to Attract Bees to Your Garden?

Buzzing bees underneath the sky, flitting butterflies, and a fully blooming garden is one beautiful scene every gardener wants. Do you have such scenery in your garden?

There is a big decline in bees around gardens. Bees are wild pollinators and are highly needed in every garden. This is one of the main reasons you need to attract bees to your garden.

For most people, bees are for making honey and wax. But for gardeners, there are more important reasons to have bees in your garden.

Let’s dig deep and see why bees are important to your garden.

Importance of Attracting Bees To Your Garden

Bees are important to the ecosystem. Bees pollinate flowers and other plants in the garden. Bees are adapted to pollinate. They help plants breed, grow, and produce food.

They ensure the cycle of life keeps running by transferring pollen from one flower to another. The vast majority of plants in the gardens rely on pollination to produce food.

Take, for example, squash, almonds, apples, and vanilla. These are plants that heavily rely on pollination to produce. While there are other insects like butterflies that help with pollination, bees pollinate up to 80% of wildflowers worldwide.

Our world will be less flowery without bees. Simply put, bees are vital to a healthy economy and healthy environment.

Long story short: If you want more flowers and fruits in your garden, you need a reliable pollinator. Bees are your best bet to ensure maximum pollination in your garden.

But how do you attract bees to your garden?

Top Tips to Attract Bees to Your Garden

Attracting bees to gardens has been practiced ever since. There are proven techniques one can use to attract bees to your garden. Let’s see some of the tips to attract bees to your garden.

Plant flowers that bees love

The first and most important step to attracting bees to your garden is planting flowers they love. Bees love a tempting flower bed. In any colony of bees out there searching for a place to set a hive, flowers play a crucial role. 

Bees will always settle in places with a lot of flowers. In addition, bees will choose flowers with a lot of nectar and pollen. Attract bees by giving them their favorite snack.

There are a few flowers that are considered tempting for bees. Below are some of the plants and flowers that bees love. 

  • Butterfly Weed
  • Coneflower
  • Clover
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Marigolds
  • Goldenrod
  • Wild Bergamot
  • Milkweed
  • Columbine
  • Lavender
  • Poppies
  • Geraniums
  • Zinnias
  • Asters
  • Bee Balm
  • Cranesbill

Most of the plants are flowers on the list and are known to produce a lot of nectar and pollen. The plants are bee-friendly and will hugely attract bees to your garden.

You can plant bee-friendly wildflowers around your garden. This is a great way to attract bees native to your area. What’s more, you’ll be attracting bees without planting so many plants in your garden. It’s also a great way to support the ecosystem.

Make your garden diverse

You also need to make your garden diverse by having as many different plants and flowers as possible.

Consider plants and flowers that bloom in different seasons of the year. This way, you’ll attract bees throughout the year. Grow trees and herbs that vary in height.

Single flowers with a ring of petals are also a great choice. Such flowers tend to provide more nutrients and food to bees. They also make it easier for the bees to reach the pollen.

Set a place for the bees to drink

Bees, like other insects and animals, require a fresh supply of water. Create an easy-to-reach source of clean and fresh water. Fresh water is a big attraction for bees.

Before landing on the flowers, bees will get into the water for a quick drink. If you live near a source of natural water, then the job is done for you.

But if you live in dry areas, consider creating a birdbath with clean and fresh water. It helps bees settle, knowing they are not getting a thirst for long periods.

Avoid the use of pesticides

Pesticides have played a big role in the decline of bee colonies over the years. You want to make sure you avoid the use of pesticides in your gardens. Instead, consider biological methods of controlling pests.

Pesticides are harmful to bees and can keep bees away. If you’re afraid of bees living too close to your home, seek professional help. Don’t use pesticides to kill or chase them away.

Bees are a critical part of the ecosystem and should be treated properly.

Protect and maintain shelter & nesting grounds

You also want to make sure there are sheltered areas around where bees can set their colonies. Bees avoid breezy areas, so make sure you reserve tall trees to help act as windbreakers.

Make sure you preserve ground nesting grounds, as some bee species nest in the ground.

Care of Ornamental Plants in the Garden

From facing storms to severe temperatures, taking care of ornamental plants can be a challenge. You need plants to stay attractive and healthy. This requires proper care.

Some plants like English laurels, roses, annual flowers, and red-tip photinia require extra care than others. Plants that require little care include junipers, hollies, and ornamental grasses.

Ornamental plants need to be planted properly and suited to the site. Otherwise, you’re going to put in a lot of effort to maintain them.

So how do you go about caring for ornamental plants in a garden? You need to identify areas that require extra care than others. For instance, a recently planted ornamental plant will require extra care than mature plants.

Let’s dive deep and see steps you can take to care for ornamental plants in a garden.

Fertilization

Fertilizing your garden is a crucial step in maintaining healthy and attractive plants. Ornamental plants, just like other plants, require fertilizer to grow healthily.

This is the case, especially in urban areas where most topsoil has been removed during construction. Fertilization is a simple culture that can be done before planting and during the growth stage.

As indicated earlier, proper care of ornamental plants starts even before planting. Living Boosts said that a triple 13 fertilizer can be used to fertilize a new area before planting new ornamental plants. 

This is a great way to ensure your plants develop well from the start making future maintenance easier. The type of fertilizer you apply matters as they differ in nutrient composition. You need to understand the available soil nutrients and what’s missing.

Herbaceous perennials and annuals perform well with liquid or water-soluble fertilizers. But woody ornamentals don’t have an immediate need for fertilizers. Most have food reserves in the roots. They can do well with a slow-release fertilizer.

You can check to know a slow-release granular fertilizer by looking at the back of the bag. If the nitrogen is listed in the form of ammoniacal nitrogen, then it’s a slow-releasing fertilizer.

In some instances, you can also use organic fertilizers like animal manures, cottonseed meal, and bone meal.

Perform a soil test

The best way to determine the right fertilizer to apply is to do a soil test. As a general rule, most ornamental plants will require fertilizers with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Phosphorus is usually required in fewer amounts. This is because it’s held in the soil and not leached during irrigation.

Overall, fertilizer application hugely depends on the type of ornamental plants and type of fertilizer. New ornamental plants can benefit from a light application done in 4 to 6 weeks intervals.

Tips and guidelines when fertilizing ornamental plants

  • Plants in the shade require less fertilizer than those in the sun areas
  • Broadcast fertilizer should be applied even when leaves are dry
  • Logged fertilizer in foliage should be brushed off before irrigating
  • Don’t remove mulch when fertilizing. Apply the fertilizer on top of the mulch then water
  • When fertilizing ornamental trees, apply the fertilizer to spread 2 to 3 times the canopy area. This is because most tree roots spread beyond the canopy area
  • Don’t concentrate fertilizer in holes under the canopies
  • Annual plants do well with a slow-releasing fertilizer
  • Avoid weeds and feed lawn feeders that contain herbicides around ornamental plants.

Watering and mulching 

Mulching is essential for most ornamental plants and helps retain moisture while preventing weeds. Mulching can help inhibit various soil-borne foliar diseases and prevent weed growth.

The mulch also helps protect the roots from extreme temperatures during the winter and summer seasons. Adding mulch around the plants helps create a buffer zone between the woody ornamental plants and the turf. This helps prevent trunk injury when trimming.

When it comes to watering, most ornamental plants when fully developed can go for days without water. Overwatering can be bad for your ornamental plants.

For example, junipers are drought-tolerant when fully established. They can go for months without water. Excess moisture for extended periods can affect their growth.

You can determine whether your plants need water by checking the plant leaves. Look for signs of wilting or a pale grayish-green color.

But some plants within the garden might require more water than others. These are plants like herbaceous perennials, annuals, rhododendrons, and azaleas.

Water should be applied slowly at the tree base. This helps avoid water runoff and loss. You can use drip irrigation or a handheld hose or sprinkler.

The exact amount of water required depends on the soil type, type of ornamental plant, and existing soil moisture. As a general rule, you need about 6 gallons of water per 10 square canopy or bed area.

Pruning

Lastly, you can take care of ornamental plants by pruning them. You need to prune to maintain a specific shape and size that’s attractive.

Consider thinning as it works best for ornamental plants. It helps open up the canopy and increase air circulation within the plant.