Tag Archives: ecology

Easy Grow Bee Plant

Dahlias Feed Bees

Dahlias Feed Bees

Back in March, using all my optimism, given the snowfall and cold I sowed some seed of dahlia Coltness Hybrids. These dahlias are single or double flowered, so still have plenty of pollen on offer, unlike the overblown, full petalled ones. Carefully nurtured, they are now in full flower and are attracting all kinds of bees. The orange ones seem to get more attention than the red ones which germinated. I will be saving the tubers which have no doubt formed, and taking cuttings next spring to increase the colours I want more of. What a delightfully cheap way to help save the bees, and I get to sit and watch them when having coffee on the patio. Wildlife needs our help and I need colour! What flower choices do you make for the bees? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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!!!

Easter Frozen In Time

Ice Hanging From My Conservatory Gutters

Ice Hanging From My Conservatory Gutters

Oh, what a week that was! I think it may be a long time before anyone forgets this Easter. I certainly won’t.  Snow still lies on the garden and fields beyond. The temperature hasn’t risen above about 5 degrees and snow flurries, though small, continued today. It is melting, slowly, but I’m anxious about all the spring work that should have been done and hasn’t. There’s a vegetable bed up by the house to finish digging. It was overgrown, had been covered in plastic in an attempt at weed control and had a weed ash growing in it. There’s not much left to dig, but the whole area, when you scratched below the surface, has builders’ rubble and large stones to get out before anything worth eating would grow. The soil has been air deprived, nutrient deprived and needs some organic matter. Luckily I stacked all the turf moved when we built the greenhouse last spring. I can use that now to improve this important area.

Iced

Icy Conservatory

The best news this week is the arrival of a new member of the family. We have now got our dog from the RSPCA and she turns out to be a wonderful dog. We expected some problems, despite reassurances that she had come from a loving home that simply couldn’t afford to keep her. But we’ve had none. She’s very well trained, placid, calm and doesn’t even have the separation anxiety the RSPCA suspected. As we have a night vision wildlife camera, we left it aimed at her bed last night, thinking she may be spending the nights pacing. But no, she slept well, waking for a stretch, a drink of water and to rearrange her blanket. Otherwise she looks quite happy. We had to build a temporary fence around  the patio to make a safe place for her to be turned out in, as our boundary fence needs work and isn’t secure. As the garden is 120ft long and the base of my hedge needs clearing on my neighbour’s side before I can begin, that’s going to take a while. My son is going to come over and help with that. He has the training and the strength that will be required to get the job done.

daisy1

Isn’t she gorgeous? I am rather optimistically imagining her following me around the garden while I work in the SUNSHINE and WARMTH of summer. In these temperatures, it seems a long time away. Last summer’s wash-out plus this spring’s winter has been a little more than any of us wanted to have to cope with!

Iced Daffodils

Iced Daffodils

I have tomato seedlings, madia seedlings and others through in the conservatory, so I hope that eventually the greenhouse will be warm enough for them. I went in the greenhouse today to check on the trays of sown seed. I was surprised to feel the warmth during sunlight today, but I know how cold it will be tonight. So I’m not expecting miracles in those seed trays. It was a good ploy to put everything in there and not sow in the ground, though. It will mean I have a start on the season once the thaw is complete. There are vegetables and flower seeds that will easily grow on in cold frames, but I only have small ones. That’s something I need to think about as more space will no doubt be needed very soon. I’ll let you know what I end up doing, but it won’t be paying the prices I’ve seen online. More likely, we’ll fashion one out of things we’ve already got.

Digging for Victory Update

Digging For Victory Veg Box. Contains seed, pot and compost to start onions, turnip and cabbage.

I found this in a charity shop today, having had to reluctantly leave the garden to sort out my bank. Obviously I’m not the only one to have had my thoughts about being victorious over the economy, quality of food and food shortages!

I’d better get back out there, then. Before I set off this morning to the bank, I did manage to make a wormery. I had an old wheelie bin, so we’ve put a water barrel tap at the bottom of it and used a wire basket, upturned, to make a shelf inside it into which cardboard layers followed by wet newspaper and old compost have been placed. This provides, I hope, top class accommodation for my new pets, the tiger worms. I’ve fished those out of the compost heap and hope to breed them to make my own liquid concentrated plant food. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Digging for Victory. Back of the box.

 

I’m Digging For Victory

They did it before I was born. The Germany army was the reason back then. But the concept is relevant now. We have bigger problems than an advancing army. Looming food shortages, a financial catastrophe leaving lots of people cash-strapped, carbon miles piling up with imported food that isn’t fresh and last but not least, health. So despite my aching back, exhaustion and advancing years, I’m digging for victory. My garden, I’m even more determined now, is to be the source of as much of our food as is possible. I can’t raise meat or fish, but I can grow lots and lots of veg if I keep at it. So could you. Small space or large, we can all make a difference.

Dig for Victory! The source of my inspiration. Lime Tree Farm, Yorkshire

We can all make a difference to the wildlife, too. The system has to work in harmony. We need the birds, frogs, toads, newts, worms and other creatures that make our gardens their home. They eat the pests, make the eco system work properly and even help make compost and put nutrients into the soil that will end up in our plants and therefore our food.

I was away on a yearly pagan camp last weekend. I met up with old, like-minded friends and spent a damp weekend in a field dedicated to conservation by a farmer of forty acres who has turn his whole life and farm into a conservation project. We helped him build a stone circle there over ten years ago, and he has, with the help of volunteers, installed a roundhouse, dug wildlife ponds, built a hide and viewing station for badgers, had specialist groups in to monitor progress and developement. On his farm they have found eighteen of our twenty odd species of ladybirds. Marvelous, and just shows what can be done in a few short years.

digging for victory

Lime Tree Farm’s Stone Circle (the gatestones aren’t on this pic)

My conversations with Pete, the unsung hero farmer, about standard food production hardened my resolve, which was weak given the calamatous weather for veg growers this year. Did you know that your five a day isn’t as healthy as it should be? The factory farming of food using chemical fetilisers makes the plants grow even and good looking, but lacks the trace elements and some of the vitaims we NEED to be healthy. The land has not been replenished properly, so we aren’t either. It stands to reason if you can grow your own that food will be fresh, so contain more vitaims. And gardening organically ensures the existence of those trace elements we need. So, I’ve come home and finished digging over my second border, which in the spirit of the late gardener Geof Hamilton, is going to be mixed planting of perennials, annuals and veg. Tomorrow I can start planting. Now I’ve got air back into this tired land, incorporated some compost and cleared the weeds, the soil is starting to dry out. Fortunately, we’re on good, deep soil with a low water table, so as long as the jet stream does stay where it should be for this time of year, I hope we can now grow food!

I’m already getting plans ready for next year, which will be my first full growing year in this home. Not for me are the plastic-packed Kenyan French beans, Egyptian potatoes and other such carbon gobbling, vitamin destroying, far away supermarket veg. I did a little experiment. I bought some radish. If they are anything to go by, it’s all been rinsed in bleach or something. The radish came in plastic and have been in my fridge two months, yet are still LOOKING fresh! Bah humbug to that idea, hello digging for victory!

Bee Rescue Kit DIY

My conservatory seems to be the place to Bee. The rain seems to be driving them to find flowers that are in dry places. The greenhouse is fine, the conservatory is not. They tend to go to the top and I find them dead or exhausted the following day. So I catch them and put them out as safely as possible. I have a bad reaction to stings, so have to be careful.

Bee rescue kit

A jar and a glass is the answer. When they’re too exhausted to fly a little sugar water to drink seems to be the answer. I use muscavado as it will have a few nutrients in it as well as pure energy. The wildlife needs all the help it can get in this crazy season!

Squirrel thief charms my garden

I woke this morning and as usual took my coffee through to the conservatory and peered out of the window. It’s raining, again, but there on my bird feeder was another visitor. We’ve seen this squirrel around before, but he’s never sat for half an hour helping himself to a bird food in such a blatant way. Local ecology in action! It’s a good job we like all our garden wildlife. He’s a charming little chap! I took the photo through the window, from about 20 metres away, but it seems to have come out quite well.

squirrel thief

squirrel thief

The second he ran off all the birds descended from the apple tree just behind the feeder and in glorious full bloom and the moment.

We’ve had, like a lot of the country, the heaviest rain in a long time. Water, water everywhere! On Sunday my weather station registered 1 3/4″ of the stuff in 24 hours. Of course we need it, and our gardens will benefit greatly. That was a lot of rain all at once, though. We’re fortunately not on a flood plain! Also fortunately, this soil seems to be very well-drained, as yesterday I was actually able to go out and use my new mower for the first time, so the rough grass has had a haircut.

If you need a mower, choose an electric model, as petrol ones are much less energy-efficient, and of course petrol is rocketing in price. You can do without the extra expense! Plus petrol mowers are three times heavier than electric ones. If, like me, you want a natural, rambling look to your garden and care for the wildlife, you only need a hover mower. This will trim the grass, but not give you stripes and a perfect finish. As we don’t want that, hover was the obvious choice.

The rain has now delayed my greenhouse build three times. At the moment I can barely get into my conservatory for towering tomato plants and seedlings that should by now be planted up in the greenhouse, but what can I do? Hopefully this rain will die out by the end of the week and I’ll finally see a glass house I can use instead of a potential swimming pool!