Archive for the ‘bees & Pollinators’ Category

Over the weekend I was blessed with quite a few Butterflies (I installed a Buddleia early this year) and saw a Lacewing which so far, I don’t recall seeing one in the last few years in either my garden or allotment …

I also got out and secured a second batch of Nettle Seeds (I started using these and foraging for them last year), they are great added in practically anything from smoothies to porridge, salads, soups etc etc! This year has been a little weird with the weather and so, they are ripening far too quickly and soon won’t be available so get out soon and get snipping! I’ve now got 3 seed tray bottoms full of Nettle seed stalks drying out on windowsills, I estimate that if you find good decent nettle seed, that a half shopping carrier bag to a full one will supply a small family with enough till next season.

Elderberries are already ripening everywhere I go, again, since it has been such a dry summer, I’ve observed that many of them have already rejected much of their fruit as a survival tactic, so only take what you need and don’t overdo it. I have a couple recipes for Elderberry so as usual, I would recommend you immediately freeze them when you get home as you may not have gotten enough on your first session to make something – also, they are far easier to remove from their flower stalks when frozen.

Elderberries do wonders for our immune systems, hence why nature gives them to us just at the end of summer towards the cold / hibernation / dormancy months …

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I have been meaning for ages to post some photo’s from the last season, with the recent chilly weather, this couldn’t have come at a better time to post!

Thing’s that I have been up to regarding preperations for the upcoming season both in the garden as well as on the allotment include Fruit tree grafting (attaching other varieties of Apple for example onto an existing tree making the tree dual / tri fruiting). Digging and maintaining Bean trenches (I will be sure to create a post on this in the future), planting loads of Garlic, Developing Two (2) yes, T W O new Hugelkultur (Hugel Mounds) that are reasonably sized and now I can say that I have good experience with Hugel Beds after creating four over the last 3 or so years.

This last summer wealded a big increase in dry bean production, I like to grow runner beans both for fresh pods but also for the dry beans, some people may say that this is impossible in the UK climate, I say don’t listen to them! It is possible with certain varieties …

The harvest photo is of the best single harvest I had during the whole summer, unfortunately I got Tomato blight so my ‘Purple Ukraine’ variety suffered before they were ready to harvest 😦

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All Organic Permaculture Allotment Harvest 2017

I also, at some point during the hectic busy summer I had, managed to go around counting the amount of Perennials I have on site. Including tubers which re-sprout if you leave one in the planting space, I counted 22 species and this excludes the fruit bushes I have waiting planting! The compost bins have had a good part of my attention as I would really like to completely become self sufficient in terms of compost either by Summer this year or next Spring, this has included turning regularly and continual adding of some fresh greens to keep the worms fed, a compost bin can do with additional insulation this time of year and I highly recommend a black bin liner placed over the opening before putting the lid back on, this seals the heat in.

Finally,a large section that was overgrown with bind weed was lasagne / sheet mulched in preperation for a dedicated berry / fruit area.

I came across this interesting Project in Kenya which is funded to help tribal women create a sustainable income for themselves.

It is just nice to see Permaculture projects like this springing up all over the world especially in areas in much of a need of sustainable projects for the local populace. I must state as having lived and resided in both ”First and Third world’ countries on different continents over the last 30 odd years, that we in the Industrial North (Europe etc.) have no right in claiming that Developing nations are over-populated and need any forms of control (trust me, many people I know have this  kind of paradigm and often, are very intelligent people as well) Intelligence though, in my opinion, is trumped by Wisdom.

The fact is that these contients were doing pretty well for themselves until foreign invaders came along (Colonialism) to bring them Religion, ”Civilisation”, Materialism and Monoculture Farming methods as well as death by non compliance …

The below video is in English but with German Subtitiles as well.

The women in the village are lucky enough to have a local Permaculturist at hand whom is getting funding to be able to help them bring about a sustainable way of providing income, not only with the Aloe plants / farming but also with Bees etc.

You can help support the project here at the Lush website as some products they sell are made from the same Aloe supplied by the tribeswomen.

For more on African / Kenyan related Permaculture, check out an older post on African Keyhole Raised Beds.

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Mandy and her partner run a section of a cooperatively bought piece of land and run their Incredible Vegetables enterprise, as much as I would like to explain some details about their project, I will most likely be mirroring exactly what is already in the interview. Here are a few previous posts (Post 1) & (Post 2) regarding Incredible Vegetables for those who haven’t seen them yet.

What was your inspiration to create your enterprise? did you already have this in mind when you obtained your little strip of land or was it later on?

We didn’t have an enterprise in mind when we first obtained the land. We wanted to be self sufficient in vegetables, that was our main priority. The enterprise essentially developed from sharing what we were doing on social media and people starting asking us about the plants we were growing. There is such an interest in perennial vegetables that once people heard we were experimenting with such plants we had a huge number of requests. We thought why don’t we try and grow and supply a few of the harder to find edible perennials? It all developed from there and Incredible Vegetables was launched!

What is your reason for concentrating on unusual / bizzarre vegs and edible plants?

We spent many years as  ‘regular’ growers. By that I mean growing stuff in the back garden, including all the things you would normally find in a vegetable garden. We thought there must be more to eat and grow and there must be a different way of doing it. There are a myriad of edimentals and perennial vegetables out there and once you start researching them it is pretty hard to stop. Also we wanted to move away from enormous amount of work that annual growing involves.
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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.