‘Our’ bits of the public zigzag get better and better. The man downstairs has built a second hugelkultur and some steps that make it safer to garden. (I’ve had a few near misses, slipping and tumbling.)
Our neighbour has employed a new gardener who will not spray. He’s planted the native grasses you can see in the background, beneath her (spring-flowering) kowhai tree.
Here are the grasses in closeup, in their cosy pea-straw mulch.
Below the first hugelkultur, parsley, thyme, bergamot, galangal and nasturtiums flourish.
O yay to all of this. I’m very happy that our garden, the neighbour’s garden and other bits of the zigzag are all safer than they were, more welcoming for bees. And for other insects, some of them also pollinators.
One still and sunny bee-filled morning, not long ago, the council used the spray on patches of old man’s beard, within 100 metres of where these photos were taken. How many bees were harmed, as they flew past on the way to our flowers?
This is what the dying old man’s beard looks like.
It could have been removed by hand. It’s tough going but I’ve done it.
And yesterday, on the far side of some dying old man’s beard, I saw lots of bees on winter kowhai.
And I wondered, was that kowhai bought from a plant shop that sells neonic-treated trees? Do the bees prefer these blooms to ours because they provide a neonic buzz?
That’s when I began to feel sad. Providing a sanctuary for bees is complicated.
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?
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.
And for cape gooseberries.
A neighbour’s growing pumpkins outside her place. And herbs. And I’ve added herbs too.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(The wool cuts easily with scissors. Could be sewn? A woollen-weed-carpet-collection-of-garments-to-garden-in?)
Bees & Bee-Loved Flowers. A Global View From New Zealand.