Tag Archives: Bee-Loved flowers

What More Can I Do?

 

rosemary (1)
Rosemary

I started to grow neonic-free bee-loved plants to nourish the bees. Because there were few of them, perhaps because the city council sprayed nasty chemicals on the public zigzag outside my gate. The chemicals made me ill, so what were they doing to the bees?

So a lost two years ago I arranged with the city council that I’d care for a big area of the zigzag closest to our place, in return for No Spraying. And I planted lavender and rosemary, alyssum, phacelia, cornflowers, thyme. Nearby, the fruit trees, herbs and bushes flowered in my organic garden as they always did.

This New Zealand summer, the dandelions, calendula, parsley and borage kept right on flourishing and self-seeding in my garden and on the zigzag and I encouraged clover wherever it appeared. Would more bees flourish?

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Autumn: mature lavender above nearby borage, parsley, calendula and silver beet (chard) seedlings, near a primitive shelter for my turmeric plants, growing well in this warmer time

The answer, sadly, is No. At the end of this long hot New Zealand summer there were few bees, in my garden or on the zigzag. After my parsley plantation finished flowering, every so often I saw a bumble bee or honey bee on a rosemary or lavender bush in the garden, or at the edge of the zigzag path on the thyme, growing well. But none on the alyssum, now vigorously self-seeding everywhere and flourishing in spite of little rain. This autumn, still quite warm, I see about one bee a week.

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Alyssum

This is much worse than last year. I don’t know what more I can do.

I also asked ‘Is it possible to maintain a useful garden without water?’ Out on the zigzag, where there’s no tap, I’ve experimented with hugelkultur, raised beds above buried wood, because they’re known to be good for plants and good in drought and flood, both more common than they used to be because of climate change.

And I’ve planted vegetables and small fruits among the the zigzag’s bee-loved flowers and  native plants and trees: ngaio, harakeke (flax), ti kouka (cabbage trees) and grasses.

I’ve found that in some parts of the zigzag and on some of the hugelkultur some plants flourish: tomatoes among the harakeke, bordoloi beans on a hugelkultur (but not the more common scarlet runner beans) hardy silver beet in some places but not others. On one problematic hugelkultur not even the borage and calendula bloomed strongly. There, and elsewhere in the home garden I’ve added more mulches; and  Environmental Fertiliser products. Will let you know how they go!

The best news is, that like friends throughout New Zealand I have a huge quince crop, the best for decades, another result of the dry weather, I believe.

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One of the quince pickings

This year I’ll continue to experiment, maintaining the bee-loved focus while working hard to produce more vegetables. We’re aware of water security here because of the earthquake risk and it’s time to consider future drought risk and food security, too. (I hear passersby on the zigzag discussing these possibilities as they admire – and critique – the trees and plants.)

This week because it’s rained recently I’ll start to clear the noxious weeds, transplant some self-seeded land cress and bury the freesia bulbs I’ve been given, for their scent in the spring.

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Self-sown land cress below some thyme and above the thyme, flourishing hollyhock plants, galangal and calendula, dock and dandelion

I’d love your stories and advice, if you’re engaged in similar projects. And in the meantime, off to the kitchen for the quince paste-making.

 

 

Taking Care of Phacelia – My Favorite Bee-Loved Flower

bee on phacelia
bee on phacelia, the mauve blossom in the foreground

I fell in love with phacelia (purple tansy) before I planted a single seed. Before I’d even seen a phacelia plant. Who knows why? A coup de foudre is often mysterious. And especially for something not yet seen. But if I hadn’t loved phacelia I might have given up. For this year anyway.

First off, not many phacelia seeds germinated. They drowned easily as tiny seedlings too. With so many seedlings to water – see early posts – I was sometimes a little careless. Eventually I planted half a dozen in the vegetable garden where I could keep a close eye on them. And four in the tomato patch on the zigzag, where the nearby hyssop, parsley and bergamot flourished.

But not the phacelias. Birds saw a space with fresh compost and scratched up the plants. None of the others, in more robust groupings, only the phacelias.  I rescued what I could.  And I covered them and their rescue Black From Tula tomato neighbours with this chicken wire cage (the net was in use in the vegetable garden).

phacelia in cage with bee
chicken wire cage poses on vegetable garden phacelias (where a bumble bee loves the the middle one)

One zigzag phacelia survived. (I visit it every day.)

The phacelias in the vegetable garden flourished and flowered. Even the one that I somehow broke, and mended with  gaffer tape.

Gaffer tape
the gaffer tape is that red, supporting the broken bits of phacelia

Then the zigzag phacelia looked about to flower and the Black From Tulas were growing like crazy. So a couple of days ago, with great care not to catch the plants in the chicken wire, I lifted it off. Caught the phacelia somehow. And ripped it RIGHT OUT.

Broken roots. A nasty shock. For both of us.

I put it back, with more compost. And now I run to and fro to water it twice a day. Sometimes with compost-tea in the watering-can water.

phacelia laid low among other bee-loveds and the tomatoes
phacelia laid low among other bee-loveds and the tomatoes

It looks as though some stalks have died, but one is coming back (top left). Maybe two. Whew.

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.

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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?)

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.

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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.
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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.

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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–

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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.

A Bigger Picture

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It’s magic to have this opportunity to learn about others who love bees and about resources that will help me (& you!) grow Bee-Loved plants.

Ian Stewart and Jo Donelly, who own Bees Blessing, sell honeyed cordials at the Sunday market down the road as well as in shops. They’ve kept bees for thirty years and use their own cordial recipes and, wherever possible, organically grown produce from New Zealand. And they brew in small batches with NO additives, preservatives or ‘fillers’ (like water). I had one of their Hot Lemon Honey Ginger drinks the other day. It was ace at 8 o’clock in the morning. Totally delicious and sustaining. And one of the stall-keepers told me about cauliflower soup with borage, something to try!

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Bees Blessing blackboard at the market

And today I fell over Wild Forage, and its Wild Flower Seed Rescue Remedy. Another source of seeds! All proceeds go to the National Beekeepers Association of New Zealand.

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Yesterday, in the wind and rain, I delivered pots and seed mix and seeds (from Koanga and Kings) to my Kapiti mates. The pots came from Fertil, in France, via Biogrow. In a big box! Exciting.

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This afternoon, I’ll sow some of my bean seeds. The little brown ones (swollen because they’ve been soaking overnight) are bordoloi beans. They’re the descendants of seeds a New Zealand soldier brought here from Italy, after World War II. The big red ones are runner beans, swapped for some bordoloi with my qi gong teacher, last year. Like tomatoes, beans can manage without bees. They pollinate automatically before the flowers open, when the anthers are pushed up against the stigma. But I love having heritage beans among the other plants.

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My grandsons make bean dens but my beans will be in rows. Or in pots.

bean den boys
Jake and James plant their beans, which will grow into a den.

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Ian Stewart, Jo Donelly & their daughter Emare