How To Attract Bees To Your Garden

Practically all plants require pollination to produce abundant fruit or vegetables. And all plants rely almost entirely on bees to accomplish this. It's true that some pollination will occur from other insects and wind action (corn for example). However, this usually results in a hit or miss, skimpy crop. So, it is necessary to attract bees to your garden. Lots of bees!

A search on the internet for plants that attract bees will result in many plants you can use. However, many of these plants are uncommon flowers you never heard of, may not be what you want in your garden and are not the easiest to grow. However, there is one plant that is never mentioned...and it is one of the absolute best. That plant is the tomatillo.


If you are not familiar with the tomatillo, it is a little green fruit resembling a green tomato used in making salsa and other Mexican dishes. It may also be used in other cuisines, but is well known in Mexican cooking. Tomatillos are a member of the nightshade family, as are tomatoes, but tomatillos are not tomatoes.

The tomatillo is easy to grow anywhere regular tomatoes will grow. It requires little care and bees love it. The tomatillo grows about 4 feet tall and spreads out to a 4 foot or more diameter. Thus, like tomatoes, it should be staked to keep off the ground. The tomatillo produces hundreds of small yellow flowers, continuously, all summer long. Bees are highly attracted to the tomatillo blossoms and will swarm around from sunup to sundown all summer. Of course if the tomatillo is planted near your garden, the bees will move from the tomatillos to blossoms on other plants in your garden, pollinating them.

If you are only interested in attracting bees, plant one tomatillo in or near your garden. However, if you would also like to have tomatillos to eat, you must have two plants. Some dispute this and I have gotten tomatillos from one plant. But to be safe and attract more bees, plant two. Tomatillo starter plants are available in early summer in many garden shops. However, it is not well known in some locations and you may not find them locally. If this is your situation, seed and plants may be obtained from most of the popular mail order seed catalogs (google "mail order seed catalogs)". Once you have a producing tomatillo plant you can save the seed from the tomatillos for next year and will not have to buy again.

How to Grow Tomatillos

Tomatillos like hot weather. They are grown just like tomatoes. Provide plenty of water, and mulch around the plant to retain water. Feed them regularly, and switch over from nitrogen to higher phosphorous and potassium as the plants grow, to promote flowering and fruit set (the numbers on a fertilizer package, such as 5-10-5 indicate 5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus, 5% potassium. So, low nitrogen fertilizer would be marked something like 0-10-5 on the package). Tomatillos will not tolerate frost, so plant after all danger of frost is past and protect if a frost is forecast.

Like tomatoes, tomatillos have few disease or pests problems. Occasionally, you may find damage from the tomato hornworm, snails or slugs. Your garden shop will have many products to eliminate these pests (please do not put poisonous chemicals in your garden). To prevent disease, do not crowd your tomatillos. Give them space for air circulation and avoid wetting the leaves (water at the base of the plant).

Tomatillos are ripe when the paper-like husk turns brown and breaks open. Remove the husk, and rinse the oily coating off. Store in a cool, dry place until you are ready to use them.

So, plant tomatillos in your next garden to attract lots of bees and stand by for amazing results

One Final Thought

Allow me to rant about one of my favorite peeves. Many (most?) people are afraid of bees. Probable because, like me, they have been stung by a bee before. If you are going to have a bountiful, successful garden you need to have bees in the garden. Bees are attracted to bright colors and sweet odors. The bees major role in life is to search out flowers, collect the nectar/pollen and return it to the bees nest. The bee finds flowers by odor and bright colors (an assumption on my part but it seems obvious).

So, if you are in the garden, wearing a bright colored shirt, soon after using shave lotion or perfume...the bees think you just might be a flower. So, they will investigate. They may buzz around you or even land on your arm. Here's the problem...It is a natural reaction for people who fear bees to swat, dodge and/or run. Often the bee is killed in the process (and the person gets stung).

As a gardener, killing bees is the last thing you want to do. So, what should you do?

First...understand that the bee has no interest in you. The bee means you no harm. If you stay calm and be still the bee will understand, in a mater of seconds, that you are not a flower and fly away.

However, if you panic and start swatting at the bee you are likely to get stung.

Having said this...of course it takes a deal of courage for a person that fears bees to stand still while a bee crawls up his/her arm or buzzes around the head. But if one understands and believes that swatting, ducking or running almost guarantees getting stung then the bee sting can be avoided. The best incentive I have found is to believe that BEES ARE YOUR FRIENDS!