Feeding the Bees!

May 2016 086

phacelia

As well as growing vegetables in my garden we grow a lot of flowers.  Obviously we derive a lot of pleasure from the colour and beauty they bring to our lives.  However, we also try and choose plants which we know will add to the biodiversity; which will nurture the animals that also consider this piece of land their own.

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bee on phacelia

In particular we choose flowers that the bees will enjoy.  It is important that it is not only our own honey bees that benefit from the garden, but also bumble bees;  I particilarly love bumble bees.  The phacelia is a particular draw for the bees, sometimes it seems to be alive with them.

The californian poppies have been very successful this year and are eye searingly bright.  However, although they have not been as popular with the bees as the phacelia.

I have more phacelia ready to flower a little later in the season.  They are in my flower circle which we have made in the middle of our lawn and which we hope will be a magnet for all kinds of bees and a pleasure for the rest of the summer.

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flower circle

We sowed the seeds earlier this year, at the moment it is looking very green ……. but oh!  It is going to be stunning in a few weeks time!

In the meantime, we, and the bees, are benefitting from the plants that I sowed last autumn and are already in full bloom.

 

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Thinking

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I’ve been thinking recently about my soil and about the slugs.  I am starting to think that the problem with my garden may not be so much about the slugs but about the soil.  the above picture is of some Sweet William plants which I planted out in the autumn.  Some have been eaten by slugs, but even those that haven’t have just sat there and put on very little growth.  If the soil was more crumbly and ‘friable’ I can’t help thinking that the roots would have been able to grow further and take more nutrients from the soil.  The larger healthier plants would have been less suceptible to slug attack.

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As you can see above when I first planted the Sweet Williams the soil was much more crumbly (although the young plant was still pretty nibbled).  Over the course of the winter though all of the tiny particles of clay have clumped together to make a dense, inpenetrable substrate with little space for air.

Ironically the benefits of adding a thick mulch to the soil seems to be outweighed by the hospitable home that it makes for slugs, allowing them to spend the day resting close to the unhappy plants that they spend their nights munching.

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In the foreground you can see the deep bed in which the Sweet Williams are planted.  They are to left.  Adjacent to this plot you can see one in which I have worked lots of compost into the top few inches of soil and top dressed it with coir.  I have planted my Red Duke garlic and sown mixed salads and greens.  I am hoping that this more friable surface will allow the seedlings to ‘get away’ before they are completely annihilated before the resident moluscs.  We shall see.

Over enthusiastic sowing

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I knew that there had to be a reason for the sports supplement!

Last year I bought myself a little paper pot maker.  It is used to turn strips of newspaper into sweet little paper plant pots.

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The idea is that the young plants can be grown in these biodegradable pots which can then be planted straight into the garden without any root disturbance at all.

At this time of year one is warned not to be too enthusiastic when it comes to sowing seeds.  They are likely to be ready to plant out too early in the season when it is still cold and inhospitable outside.  Looking after them indoors becomes increasingly problematic as light levels are too low and plants become forced.  Moreover, they keep growing and taking more and more space on crowded windowsills and in greenhouses.

So what have I done?  Sown seeds of course!  As well as the Rainbow Swiss Chard in paper pots I have planted sweetpeas not to mention all of the seeds that I sowed last week.  Sadly I put them in the airing cupboard but did not keep a close enough eye on them; I failed to remove them as soon as they germinated!

These poor seedlings have had the worse start in life!  They are yellow and drawn and will be very susceptable to damping off and other fungal diseases.  Fortunately I think that only some of the seeds have germinated so far. I hope the ones that were slightly slower to germinate will be a little healthier, otherwise I will have to sow some more!

Sunday Sowings

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Last year, for Valentine’s Day, Chris bought me a packet of heritage tomato seeds which I planted immediately.  I decided that this would be the start of a new tradition so this year, on Valentine’s Day, I planted some of the tomato seeds that came with my gardening magazine.  The varieties were Red Cherry, Red Pear and Tigrella.  I had also saved some seed from last year’s crop (Wladeck).  As they still had a little of the pulp dried on to the seeds (which would have inhibited them from germinating) I put them in water to soak for a couple of days.

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That should remove all of the pulp and then they will be ready to sow.

I also thought that I would try sowing some parsnips indoors.

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Parsnips are slow and difficult to germinate.  They also need a relatively long time to grow.  There is no point in sowing them in my heavy cold clay at the moment.  However, they also hate being transplanted.  I thought that I would try growing them in toilet rolls; with luck they won’t notice what has happened when I transfer them to the garden.  The variety is called ‘Hollow Crown’.  I put two or three seeds in each tube and will thin them out after they germinate to leave just one plant in each.  After I took this picture I covered the seeds with more compost.  The compost is left over from last years tomotoes as on Gardener’s Question Time yesterday Bob Flowerdew suggested that carrots grown in a poor compost are forced to send their roots vigorously down in search of nourishment ….. we shall see.paths and potatoes 045.JPG

I left the parsnips and some cut and come again lettuce that I also planted in the conservatory.  The aubergines, tomatoes and basil I sealed in polythene bags and put in the airing cupboard.  I will have to keep a very close eye on these as they will need moving to a warm sunny windowseal as soon as they are through or else they will get terribly forced.

I bet you are wondering what Chris bought me for Valentine’s day this year aren’t you.  Chris doesn’t go for half measures so as well as flowers, a lovely meal out and someting else garden related that I haven’t photogrpahed yet he got me these.

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Two lovely new garden trugs; what an old romantic!  Needless to say I was delighted with them and tomorrow will show you what use I put them to immediately.