Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Buzz About Bees. Can We Help Them?

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At last the government have got involved. But they are still debating, procrastinating, about the use of neonicotinoids. Nicotine based pesticides are modern, used only for the last twenty years. Bees are in trouble, as we’ve known for a long time now. If we lose them we’re in big trouble. Our food supplies would be hugely affected. That’s why we should all be doing our utmost to help them. I’m no expert on insects, I’m just a concerned gardener and amateur naturalist.

Members of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee are calling for a moratorium on the use of sprays containing neonicotinoids. If you want to know more about it there’s an article currently on the BBC website.

So here’s my plan for this year. I planted early flowers for bees last year, and two days after snow cleared, as I mentioned in my last post, I have violas flowering. There is also heather in flower, growing in my holly.  Crocus, too are there providing that vital nectar. I had nesting solitary bees last year, and left them undisturbed. Primroses and cowslips will also help as soon as they begin to flower. I have also made insect hotels out of lengths of cane, and we currently have piles of rotting wood which will provide more insect hide-aways.

Almost all the flowers I plan to grow this year are single flowers, as these provide the most pollen and nectar. Daisy flowers of all kinds are loved by bees with their composite heads, therefore lots of pollen and in one place. I will have, as long as they all germinate, bidens, felicia, dahlia (single flowered), aster, coreopsis, sunflowers, and a blended mix of wildflowers. The packet says they are to attract butterflies, but many of the flowers for them will also feed and attract bees.

Bee On Geranium Flower

Bee On Geranium Flower

I’ve planted a buddleia, the butterfly bush, and have more cuttings of that to give away or plant elsewhere. My son has planted one in his tiny garden in a nearby town. Spread the bee and butterfly love!

Sedums are excellent nectar plants, and I have planted several. I’ve also planted  geraniums. The hardy type. As you can see from the bee photo, they love them, and they are for the most part easy going plants that will give pleasure for years.

The great news for today is….drumroll….I saw the first bee and the first butterfly. Spring on the wing. Hooray!!!

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Spring. It’s Surely Now Here!

Spring Violas. They made it through the snow.

Spring Violas. They made it through the snow.

Spring is finally on its way, according to the weather forecast. Warming up this weekend, or at least the Easterly wind reducing in strength. So at last we might be able to contemplate sowing seed outdoors soon. The snow has now gone from the garden, thankfully, though in northerly aspects on the fields it remains.

My son came over yesterday and helped me complete the clearing of the bed near the house I’ve decided will be a good vegetable starting point for this year. It’s higher, being closer to the house, so better drained, easy to access from the patio and therefore easier to water and harvest. There’s a water butt very close by and outdoor tap should I need it. Here I will plant the broad beans I sowed last October and are now desperately in need of planting. I’ve put a tunnel cloche with fleece over the newly invigorated soil. It’s been cleared of builder’s rubble, thoroughly aired, stones and old tree roots removed and every weed removed. It’s also been protected from the cold by covering it loosely with plastic sheeting since before the snow. This has kept it relatively free of frost and will consequently be warmer to put my young plants in.

A Work in progress. Tunnel cloche up.

A Work in progress. Tunnel cloche up.

I then added loam made from last year’s turf stripping that has been stacked and covered with old carpet ever since. So my beans and garlic plants, in modules since October, can finally go in. I’ve also got rhubarb to plant, though that will be in the lower bed that drowned last year. I’m raising it using gravel boards (very cheap) and praying for a better growing year with a more moderate rainfall. There is a lot to do.

I’ve also had a rare brainwave. I’d bought some little plastic balls designed to connect canes together to make a cloche. They didn’t work very well, but I had some old tent poles that link together. With the addition of the plastic balls I’ve made a cloche for the small bed next to my greenhouse, so that’s now covered with a decorating sheet and an old shower curtain just to get the soil warmed before I sow and cover with protection from the pigeons. I’m not sure yet what to plant there, but I’d like to put some meadow flowers in to attract in the bees and other insects. I have plenty of seed, so it’s just a case of making up my mind!

I’ve written this over a couple of days. Today (Sunday) I finally managed to get my garlic out of modules and into actual living soil. Hooray! I’ve put it in the bed near the patio, which has now had some blood, fish and bone added. I’ve spent the last two days on gardening after a long period of cabin fever caused by the cold and snow. It’s been hard work but bliss to be outside. As I’ve been given a power washer by a kind neighbour, I’ve even  started cleaning the filthy, neglected for twenty years patio. The slabs are coming up OK. It all needs re-doing, really but cash is needed for that so it will have to wait. It’s uneven, we think because of the trees that were planted too close to the house, so we will attempt to level it up for now with the help of my son.

Cheery daffodil

Cheery daffodil

Last years’ Spanish Bluebell fight is back on. I’m still digging them out. But my daffodils are open, and look lovely. Strangely, so are snowdrops. They’ve been delayed by the cold, but are a welcome sight. The big hit is my violas, planted last Autumn. They sat under all that snow and flowered as soon as it melted.

The jet stream is still too far south, but tomatoes were ready to be pricked out today, and now sit on my windowsill in the conservatory. Three varieties. More about those next time.

My new dog, Daisy, has really settled in and is determined to help by making sawdust of any stick I’ll throw for her. Here she is after an exhausting game of ball. She’s going to be my very own Nigel, for those who watch Gardeners World. She follows me around as I get on with work out there, and seems to love watching what I’m doing. Or chewing up wood, or watching next door’s chickens through the fence.

Daisy

Daisy