Weeds & No Bees

zigzag

Outside my front door is a public path, a zigzag on a hillside. Originally planned as a road, it’s well-used by people on their way to the beach. Or to climb further up the hillside and perhaps then to drop down into the city. It’s Busy.

They run. They plod. They chat online and in person.

They walk their dogs. Some with plastic bags they use to remove their dogs’ shit. Some not.

And the zigzag tends to get Overgrown. So the city council employs contractors to tidy up.  And SPRAY.

I wasn’t happy about the spray. Not good for the bees. Or the soil. Or people. So I volunteered to care for the spaces close to me.

Some neighbours look after other sections and on one area I care for neighbours also kindly cleared around some native trees. And we’ve all collected a lot of rubbish. This chicken satay wrapping touched my heart. Did it come from whoever ate the chicken flavoured crisps?

Chicken satay
chicken satay & chicken flavoured crisps

Even though the zigzag is  close to my own bee-filled garden, I never see bees there. Or butterflies. Too few flowers. Probably too much spray residue, too, though the bees wouldn’t notice that.

I’ve been clearing spaces for sunflowers and tomatoes.

area for sunflowers

And for cape gooseberries.

area for cape goosberries

A neighbour’s  growing pumpkins outside her place. And herbs. And I’ve added herbs too.

thyme
thyme
lemon balm
lemon balm (with tiny parsley seedlings)
marjoram
marjoram

And native grasses someone gave me, grouped around the area where I’ll make a little path.  If you look carefully you can see three of the grasses here.

grasses
grasses

It’s a mission, to Get Rid of Weeds Without Sprays. Especially Dock, with its big roots and many seeds. Especially Fennel with its big roots and many seeds. There’s Wandering Willie. There’s ConvUlvulus.  Actually ConvOlvulus, but I wonder about that ‘vOlvu’ combination, because of the leaf’s shape.

Convulvulus

One writer says this about convolvulus–

Convolvulus is a tricky weed to deal with, because it spreads underground through its deep roots and rhizomes. Try to pull as much out as possible, following the white roots underground as you go, trying to pull them out rather than let them break off (where they will continue to grow). Convolvulus is another weed where it’s often helpful to use a little weedkiller; one time consuming but effective way to deal with it is to break the tip off of the runner[s] and dip them in bottle caps of Roundup, keeping them in the caps until it spreads into the roots. Otherwise, similar to Wandering Willie, it’s worth maintaining constant vigilance after removing it once.

Yep. I’m tempted to use Roundup for convolvulus.  But never have.

Then there’s this plant – I don’t know its name and can’t find it in weedlists.  It has huge underground roots, too.

anonymous (to me)
anonymous (to me), on the zigzag beyond ‘my’ bits

It also has lots of seeds. They scatter-and-sprout-in-cracks-and- crevices very very quickly  so I try to grab them as soon as they appear. Sometimes I can’t face digging the mature plants out, because of their roots, so I run round chopping off the flowers before they seed.

But one weed I can celebrate. A mate wandered around the hillside and found this.

shepherd's purse
shepherd’s purse

Yum, she said. She picked a whole lot and made an egg soup with it. Days later she sent me the English name and I looked it up and saw that yes, it is a healthy and useful herb and yes, there are all kinds of recommendations about how to kill it with chemicals. I ‘weed’ this little shepherd’s purse plot now, so it will divide and multiply.

And I’m putting my mind onto LABELS. So passersby know what the plants are. Know they can help themselves to anything they like. So they can offer ideas and plants if they feel like it.

And I’m thinking about a PLEASE CLEAN UP YOUR DOG’S SHIT sign.

As soon as the sunflowers, tomatoes, cape gooseberries are in the ground, on their nice woollen weed mat, I’m onto more bee-loved flowers out there.

The woollen weed mat – more of a carpet really – comes from Biogrow, the  same place as the biodegradable pots. Two big boxes of it dropped at the door.

weedmat1

In theory, I could use it without grubbing out all those nasty weeds. Just add compost on top and plant.

BUT I can’t cover the whole zigzag with the mat so it feels right to clear the soil where I am going to use it.  And the soil around that area. At least.

weedmat2

(The wool cuts easily with scissors. Could be sewn? A woollen-weed-carpet-collection-of-garments-to-garden-in?)

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Tomatoes Beloved, Bee-Loved Flowers Not!

visitors

People visit to choose plants to take home.  Two have taken  a clump of sunflowers and the interplanted alyssum. But most people want tomatoes. And basil.

What about some alyssum I say. What about some sunflowers? We’ve got sunflowers, they say. Got alyssum.

sunflowers & alyssum with holes where there used to be more--
Sunflowers & alyssum with holes where there used to be more–

Look! I say then. Look at these tiny bee-loved plants.

IMG_1047
Anonymous, could be bergamot. Or hyssop (with stray alyssum at far left)

I don’t know what they’re called because their label sticks blew away in a Kapiti wind. But they’ll be safe for the bees at your place. Better than anything you can buy at most garden centres, where they may be affected by neonics.

But no. They want tomatoes. Which don’t need bees. Which bees don’t care about. They want basil, because it’s hard to grow and it goes with the tomatoes. We’ve got plenty of flowering plants, they say.

So, a bit of advice about tomatoes out in the open–

  • They will flourish only if they’re in a plot with at least six hours of sun on a sunny day.
  • You can split open a bag of compost and put a tomato plant directly in it – no need for more!
  • You can fill a bucket with compost, put a hole in the bottom of the bucket and hang the tomato plant downward – then feed liquid seaweed/comfrey etc from the top.
tomatoesupside down
Great trick, huh? (thanks, Fiona Lovatt!)
  • If you want tomato-flavour-to-die-for, establish around 50 plants and severely limit the number of branches and fruit (via the sterling Alex Mackay, whose tomatoes are legendary).

Gardeners Delight (no apostrophe!) is the visitors’ fave tomato, so far. I have lots of Black From Tula and the ones that – this year – interest me most, Cherokee Purple .

Here are small Cherokee Purples in among the strawberries a month ago with tiny bee-loved borage plants top right–

Cherokees in garden 12 October 2014
Cherokee Purples 12 October 2014

From egg cartons inside, then to the outside, then to bigger containers outside. Some Cherokees now await new owners, with basil and – in one pot – a sneaky alyssum. These are rescue plants, coming right near the rosemary, the lemon balm and the evening primrose.

Waiting for a new home

And I’ve planted a few Cherokee Purples myself. The biodegradable pots are meant to be below the soil, but I haven’t got that quite right yet. So I tore the top of the pot and pushed it down towards the earth.

planted
Cherokee Purple with organic basil, both from Kings Seeds

And – fantastic news – that top-and-bottom-less tin to protect the Florence courgettes from slug-and-snail invasion seems to be working–

courgette
Florence courgette in tin, with cornflowers (& teeny borage and calendula seedlings).

Apart from the Purple Cherokees and the Florence-courgette-in-the-tin success, I’m excited about my phacellia. This bowlful and a couple of smaller containers – only one of them given away, to a special gardener. Can’t decide where in the garden to provide this new-to-me-bee-loved treat.

Phacellia
Phacellia

The big question at the mo though is, HOW am I going to persuade visitors to welcome healthy bee-loved flower plants into their gardens?

Plant Progress

Out at Kapiti, the label sticks blew off the seedlings. So I have anonymous seedlings.

There are too many in each little organic pot, too, even though we sowed some of them one-by-one, with tweezers. This is how they looked last week–

lots of little ones

And they’re not growing quickly. Even when I transfer them to bigger pots. But some of their leaves are differentiating more. That’s fabulous. But because my only pictures of them are of their flowers, I don’t know what the leaves mean.

differentiate

Except for the basil. Those are the bigger seedlings in the round pots below.

people prefer basil etc

The single seedling in the big round pot at the top of the image is a courgette.

Someone told me that if we cut off the top and bottom of a used tin and place it over a vulnerable-to-slugs plant, slugs will stay away. So that courgette is sitting inside its tin-frame, inside its biodegradable pot, so it will be safe (I hope) when a friend takes it home.

I think the tiniest seedlings are thyme, which took a while to germinate. A bit like parsley, which I know takes AGES.