Archive for the ‘bees & Pollinators’ Category

I’m a little late with my current season updates this year, but anyway here we go…

 

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Giant Goosefoot ‘Magentaspreen’ Seedlings

One of the most ornamental Salad Greens I have on my allotment is the Magentaspreen Giant goosefoot, the centre has a beautiful magenta colour which shows up differently in photo’s, they are very similar to ‘Fat Hen’ aka Good King Henry (there’s such a thing as a good king? .. whatever).

I made the effort to keep some Phacelia to go to flower, mainly as they are very beneficial to various pollinator species but also because it is a Green Manure, it pays to let some go to seed to keep my own stocks up. Watching bumblebees visiting Winter and Summer Squash flowers can be quite ammusing, they seem to aim for the flower and just fall in, I don’t know if anyone else has ever noticed this, I noted this with quite a few bees on one particular day.

I still have a few smaller Borage plants still to open flowers, it seems like my self seeded patch is quite weaker / smaller this year, it may be that I have loads more going on at the Allotment this year that perhaps I am giving the dedicated wildlife flower section less attention.

I decided to allow the Broad Beans which were sown at the same time last year as my Garlic on top of the new Hugel / Suntrap to go to flower and seed (the intention was as a Green Manure where you dig them into the soil as you see them forming flowers) They made a nice addition to a stew we made. As an experiment, the Hugel / Suntrap has various support / companion plants sown on top with one Tomato, Sorrel, a couple Salad Burnet (Perennial) , Rhubarb (Survivor / volunteer) and two Asparagus crowns (these are purely to experiment, I obtained many crowns [20+] and can afford to lose two if all goes wrong).

 

Mid summer update coming up soon …

I had a thought the other day, what am I doing wrong in terms of companion planting / sacrificial planting? (Sacrificial, meaning growing plants which you intend to attract pests away from your desired species / crops). The main result being that I always grow them too late! When Spring is approaching we just usually all take a look at our stock of seed packs or growing calendars to see what needs sowing / starting off early indoors (such as Cabbages, Onions etc.) But the one thing I am going to change this year is to have a few trays dedicated to the sacrificial plants, mainly Marigolds (Tagetes). I am using Phacelia (Phacelia tenacetifolia) as a Green Manure but am aware too that Bumblebees like the flowers so, I will be ensuring that a few plants will be grown seperately purely for the Bees and placed in various micro-climates around my gardens (place one group in full sun, another grouping in partial shade and this will ensure different flowering timings which will help the bees a lot in that their forage sources are spread out), do this with various plant species, include perennial plants, annuals etc.

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Marigolds (Tagetes) planted as sacrificials to ensure Pumpkins were left unmolested by Slugs – once they died, fresh seed was harvested for next years sowings

Marigolds have two main and a third benefit in our gardens, the first for me and most Organic farmers (small scale) benefit, is the sacrifical planting which attracts slugs and snails away from other young plants you are trying to get going in the early parts of summer, they love marigolds and will mostly go for those (violas and pansies are another plant that can be used as well).
Benefit number two is that Marigolds (Specifically Mexican marigolds) have aleopathic chemicals which suppress difficult perennial weeds such as Bind Weed, a piece of land can in theory, have this perennial weed eliminated with the correct method being used.
The third benefit is it’s Ornamental value and it’s aparrent attractiveness for Bees (after growing Marigolds for the last 3 years as sacrificial plants, I have yet to see a Bee specifically going for them), I keep seeing it mentioned on other sites online especially ones writing about Pollinator Attracting plants …

Start your Sacrificial plant sowings Now, as well as any other plants you wish to get going in your garden by seed which are either for the benefit of wildlife or perennial plants.

One trick I have learned about Marigolds is to let perhaps one set of true leaves form (the more mature leaves which will be differently shaped compared with the smaller baby leaves which come out on germination) and I then clip the top out above the first set of true leaves, I then immediately plant the tip in a small pot with damp compost and keep moist, these plants are very good for cuttings propagation, not a single one failed even though they were left right in full sun in moist compost).
Do the above for every one plant and you will easily double your population! so for example, if you decide you would like to grow maybe 40 -50 Marigolds per season. you merely need 20 – 25 starter plants to come up from seed which means one dedicated seed module tray!

Remember, as with all plants, the more you cut them lower down, the more the plant bushes out so instead of perhaps 2-4 flower heads from a mature plant, you will have lets say 5-9 flower heads and a more bushier / attractive plant, this should keep the plant lower to the ground which means more accessible food for the slugs and snails.
Once you buy one pack of Marigold seed, you should never really need to buy another pack as the seeds are easy to save, this is only unless you decide you would like to try another variety to compliment those which you already have.

In the next post, I will be writing about what can be sown now in preperation for the upcoming growing season, I will start off with January and get to February in the coming week…

Another Plant which I cannot see myself ever doing without unless moving to a climate which it cannot thrive in is the Artichoke Plant ‘Cynara Cardunculus’ (there are a few varieties). My obsession with these came when I snapped a photo of one flower head which had around 9 or so bees on it alone!

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The plant has a pleasant ‘Silver Tone’ effect which covers Greys and Silvers in an ornamental bed (Perennials)

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Multiple Flower Heads ‘Cynara cardunculus’

A friend of mine says that his Grandparents in the past, used to cook  the young shoots in a type of stew / broth recipe in the South of France.
There is the famous ‘Globe Artichoke’ which is edible and the varieties I am mainly focusing on here which do not produce edible flower heads such as the latter, but are great for Bees and Pollinators.
The plants are Perennial and once established should last years, in colder Temperate regions these Herbaceous plants will die down in a cold Winter and re-sprout in Spring. I am classing the Ornamental Artichoke ‘Cynara Cardunculus’ as Semi / Beneficial with the Edible ‘Globe Artichoke’ Variety as a good Beneficial Plant (Multiple Uses / Purposes) in a Sustainable / Permaculture System (Edible parts, good Cash Crop if grown in bulk, Perennial, Medicinal uses as described below and Pollinator attractant / forage plant. Another point is the leaves produce good green waste for composting and the tall woody stems you will chop down in Winter are great biomass, can be used as canes, in Hugel Mounds / Hugelkultur etc.)

 

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Bees Love the Artichoke Plant ‘Cynara cardunculus’

The plants are used medicinally and the following is taken from WebMD:

” Artichoke is a plant. The leaf, stem, and root are used to make “extracts” which contain a high concentration of certain chemicals found in the plant. These extracts are used as medicine.

Artichoke is used to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver, and this is thought to help reduce the symptoms of heartburn and alcohol “hangover.” Artichoke is also used for high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), kidney problems, anemia, fluid retention (edema), arthritis, bladder infections, and liver problems.

Some people use artichoke for treating snakebites, preventing gallstones, lowering blood pressure, lowering blood sugar; to increase urine flow; and as a tonic or stimulant.

In foods, artichoke leaves and extracts are used to flavor beverages. Cynarin and chlorogenic acid, which are chemicals found in artichoke, are sometimes used as sweeteners.

Don’t confuse artichoke with Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).

How does it work?

Artichoke has chemicals that can reduce nausea and vomiting, spasms, and intestinal gas. These chemicals have also been shown to lower cholesterol. ”

 

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‘Cynara cardunculus’ grown commercially

The plants can be propagated by root division, take an established plant in dormancy (Winter / end of Winter towards Spring), using a spade, you will merely slice into the center of the root crown and dig around this newly sliced section, taking as much of the root with you as possible with soil to transplant to a nursing bed or in its final location. A layer of mulch is always a good idea once placed as protection from frost to ensure survival of the new plant.

Growing a couple of these plants in your garden together with other local / native as well as non native Bee Friendly plants will be very helpful for our Bee friends as an important food supply, ensure you study the different flowering times so that you can ensure that you alway have a plant or two supplying them with pollen and nectar most of the year round. You can even place one plant in a semi / shaded spot and this plant will flower later on, its flowers will still be going when the other plant has already finished its flushes.

I accidentally let a Courgette (Zucchini) get to Marrow size, although I sometimes do this, I so far haven’t let any go past the 1 kg mark, the harvest from last week yielded a Marrow that is sitting somewhere at the 1.85 kg mark!! We still have yet to open it and see if it has gone to seed, if yes are they woody yet? if not, is it soft and still edible? I have seen a recipe online for Stuffed large Courgettes which I would like to give a try …

25 Runner Beans ‘Czar’, 35 Tomato ‘Millefleur’, 2x Italian Vine Tomatoes and the Courgette-Zilla with it’s normal sized cousin. The Millefleur tomatoes are really delicious straight from the bush, this variety will be a mainstay from now on for me.

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Regrets I have, as usual are that I again had plants germinated which I didn’t get in the ground or at least re-potted soon enough, they went to waste and this harvest could have included a good bowl full of various leafy greens for a nice salad … perhaps even an Aubergine or two if I had made good effort to get my polytunnel finished at least two months ago.

In the above photo’s you can see the prolific fruiting of the Tomato ‘Millefleur’ variety, we have had a pretty weak summer this year and I suspect that this variety will do much better in hotter summers.
I am very, very chuffed to say that I Finally got a Watermelon forming, the little ball really expanded quite a bit in the last day or two since I first spotted it (there looks to be another forming on one of the other plants too 🙂
Since it is so late in the season to even think of the watermelon doing well at all, I just need to get the polytunnel finished and work on adding heat mass temporarily into the tunnel to counter the inevitable cold nights that are very close around the corner -by heat mass I mean large rocks / bricks etc to absorb the sun’s radiation during the day to release slowly at night, the Watermelon Variety is bred for a short season so hopefully by October it can be harvested
One or two flowers from the one surviving Melon seem to be selling too so hopefully something is going on there as well …

It was a clear day (mostly) and everything in the pond was highly visible almost down to the bottom, my Oxygenating plants have grown so much I can start selling them in small batches now (the Water Mint is also sending shoots out in every direction, looks like I may have to sell a pond starter package online?), today I spotted the regular frog then suddenly a smaller one popped out from the same hiding place!

The pond has been swamped with Water Skaters, I saw two who found a lonesome Woodlouse to munch on. Today I managed to add some Onions into my last outdoor sowings of Carrots (the Carrots were seeded about two weeks ago – the Onions were placed where seeds failed to Germinate), planting a few Onions between and around your Carrots will confuse Carrot Root Fly – for those of you who are new to this, it’s called a few names worldwide – most commonly, Companion Planting or Intercropping.

I planted these onions knowing it is too late for them, but two things could happen here;
1: They will be a reasonable size once they need pulling out, so can be used as Salad Onions or
2: If small enough, they can be lifted to be stored to dry out, then I can use them to start early in my polytunnel for large Spring time Onions
3: They will survive at least most of the length of the Carrots’ life, so they will have fulfilled their purpose if they only provide the distracting scents

The Globe Artichokes ‘Cynara cardunculus’ a non edible variety of Globe Artichoke which is used mainly for ornamental reasons, are doing well it seems. All three are sending out fresh shoots including the one I planted in the very beginning (About 4 month’s ago when I got granted the land) -the most recent ones are scavenged from another plot which is vacant, I don’t want to find out that new tenants thought it was a weed and decided to kill them off …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so I finally get around to posting ”what’s going on” photo’s of both my Allotment and Garden …

I love bees, but unfortunately with this year’s cool weather, I haven’t been able to get a nice photo yet compared with previous years, I do have a frog though 😉

Click on each picture below for a larger image of such

 

Wildlife have increased both on the Allotment and Garden, mainly due to the added varieties of plants as well as ponds on both sites, I can’t stress enough how important a pond is, even if you just get a small container and place it in a hole with a few plants inside, it will go a long way to help the local ecosystem, not only that but can also create a Micro Climate which you can take advantage of in terms of Plant Variety and options …

Tadpoles are, Still Tadpoles! … in the small pond at home, I’m leaning towards that maybe they don’t have as much food due to the pond size compared with the Allotment, so I’ve made a mental note to throw in a few more ”accidentally stepped on” slugs to help them along …

I’m growing Achocha for the first time this year, they are climbers so they are growing amongst the Pumpkins on the large trellis, they are related to the famous ‘Exploding Cucumber’ but the reason why I’m growing them is I feel like giving up on Peppers, the slugs are too Rambo here and this variety is said to taste like Green Peppers when fried – they are also a vine plant so a bit out of reach for the slugs.

The Japanese ‘Hokkaido’ Pumpkin are said to be one of the easiest Heritage (Heirloom) pumpkins to grow in the UK climate, are quite prolific and highly recommended as well as the Pumpkin Masque De Province.

I chopped down my Bocking 14 Comfrey literally 3 – 4 weeks ago and already have a plant almost two thirds back to the original size! You definitely need to divide the roots every year after the second year onwards … the crowns sell for reasonable money online so keep that in mind! I am pondering opening an online shop here, this will be something on offer if I go ahead with the idea.

Above are the photo’s from the Allotment plot, starting with a nice sunrise sometime perhaps after 6am? Once cloud, wow, amazing for the UK skyline eh?

The wildflower bed is doing better now than I had expected (I really waited very late to buy and sow a pack on that dedicated bed) luckily all worked out fine, I suspect maybe less than half of the varieties mentioned on the seed pack germinated so I was quite happy with what came out. The Borage flowers are beautiful aren’t they? No wonder they are used in salads for a visual touch!

The Pumpkin is another French variety Galeuse d’Eysines which I had some reasonable success with last year, it climbs well and does pretty good in storage

I placed Marigolds ‘Tagetes’ too late ( well I discovered that Marigolds really should be the First plant you germinate before you start sowing vegetable seeds – this is a personal observation, but I bet not my own) and hence lost a Pumpkin and Courgette plant to slugs, the other marigolds under my Achocha plants almost got completely decimated (that’s their purpose anyway) but are coming back to life now, their new purpose is ornamental to brighten up the plot and finally to provide me with seed for next year

The Water Mint ‘Mentha Aquatica’ are now flowering, they are insect / Bee beneficial and if you look closely in the photo, you can see a resident Frog on the left near the flower right in the emergence zone at the water line.

Till the next Garden / Allotment update – most likely a Harvest Update but there might be more ”mid summer” if we suddenly get good hot weather so the plants can get a boost

With basic problem solving in building a pond system in your garden, just take a look at photo’s online after establishing your goal/s. My own goals are three to four things, namely:

  1. Wildlife promotion
  2. Pest Control
  3. Microclimate
  4. Additional Edible Plants

With these points in mind and with Wildlife Promotion and Pest Control being the main two objectives, the pond will have to be habitat friendly and provide food source / forage opportunity and shelter.

Previously I posted an article (Click Here) titled ‘Wildlife and Frog Friendly Ponds’ where at the very end, I posted one picture and challenged my viewers to ”spot the mistakes”, below in the same image, I have circled the problems which wildlife (mainly frogs and newts) would experience in that particular design …

perma ponds - wrong doings complete

here’s the list of issues that would need fixing to bring this pond to be very beneficial for wildlife:

  1. Do not create a ring of stones without gaps between, these stones will heat up during the day and may become too hot for organisms to access the ”emergence zone”. I would completely remove smaller stones creating a gully and I would plant soft ground cover such as Mind Your Own Business ‘Soleirolia soleirolii‘ which will grow between the rocks and give the pond a rustic feel eventually
  2. This clump of plant is too large and should be reduced soon, the best is to have different species of plants with different functions rather than only one
  3. There is a lack of plant diversity Especially that I cannot see an oxygenating plant (this pond size is ideal for at least 5-7 plant types including at least two oxygenators) This will provide much needed in-habitat shelter and cover from predation as well as housing for the future generations of tadpoles etc.
  4. Looks like there is no gradual slope making it easy for frogs and newts to exit easily, this includes that there is not enough cover planted outside the pond which would provide much needed shelter for emerging / entering wildlife (there are a few but not ideal)

If you remember above I mentioned four goals I have for my pond requirements, the remaining two were Microclimate and Edible Plants, with microclimate I have placed my small pond at the base of my squash / pumpkin trellis, the pond will reflect sunlight underneath the leaves of the sprawling / climbing plants and assist in the microclimate by storing heat and slowly releasing it at night.

In terms of edible plants, since my pond is quite small I am only going to have water mint at this time as my regular mint (in a pot) is not doing so well, so at this early stage I’m going to only experiment and see how it goes, water mint is also very beneficial to bees and pollinators so it definitely ticks a box in terms of Permaculture.

I will be posting a series of articles on Wildlife Ponds, although these ponds may be slightly more relevant to the UK, you can still use the same concepts and tips no matter where you are!

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Frogs in a Pond, make excellent Slug Terminators in a Permaculture System

This is article #1, further below I will update with links to future articles in the series so please keep an eye out and follow the blog, out of all of my mini projects in my mini garden over the last year or two, this has been the first which really excited me and is keeping me very interested and motivated, I guess it is the multiple benefits which a pond can provide which make it such a worthwhile project, that I am already figuring out little ways to extend the size of the pond and plants which I will place into  the system, all of this will be shared in the future once complete …

Quick Update on my own mini pond and it’s progress, the pond is in place, filled with water, pebbles and some duck weed as an interim substitute for the pond plants I intend to obtain in the coming weeks. I am specifically concentrating on only British Native species for the reason that they are more friendly to local wildlife and the ecosystem in general. A net was made from chicken wire just in case any herons or blackbirds decide to fish for frogs, today I got hold of what I hope is ‘Iris pseudacorus’ which is a native Water Iris, I should be able to give a true identification once it flowers in June. Now I await for my trusted ‘Pond Plant Nursery’ to sell me their winter recovering Oxygenating plants and others which I am adding into the design, Oxygenators are important especially if the pond is ”still” meaning without a water feature such as a fountain or waterfall. Never hesitate to find a specialist like I have, they should normally be more than happy to help out with advice depending on your pond size, mine is almost a micro pond if there is such a category?

Below are a few pictures I have obtained from other online sources, The last image is one I would like you all to look at and decide for yourselves, why that particular pond has a few issues with it which may be inhibiting frogs rather than promoting or helping them, just use your common sense and in the coming days I will post what I know is wrong with it based on the picture.

Click on each picture above and it will open in a larger viewing window

perma ponds - wrong doings

In the last picture above, take a look and see if you can find at least 3-4 issues with this pond which are inhibiting the frog / wildlife ecosystem, I will post the exact same photo in a few days highlighting the issues and discussing further!

Click HERE for a previous post with a nice video explaining 6 great benefits to having a pond system