GBBD – June Flowers for Bees and other Pollinators

I rarely post photos of my own garden. I work as a gardener, which means our garden at home takes second fiddle and often has the look of cobbler’s shoes but I do try to grow as many plants that have wildlife value as possible. This is my first time of joining in with Carol at May Dreams Gardens for GBBD, I am a little late, apologies!

Phacelia and Bee

Phacelia tanacetifolia enjoyed by lots of Bees

Phacelia tanacetifolia is on the top of my list for Bees and pollinators alongside Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’. We grow Nepeta both as a hedge and dotted through the garden, plants in full sun attract the most Bees.

Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant'

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ with stripey bottomed bee and no pollen balls – ident appreciated!

Phacelia was originally grown here as a green manure, it self seeds wonderfully and now we have lots, a large patch in my veg garden and also dotted throughout the borders. Phacelia also makes a great cut flower. Third top plant for Bees and Pollinators in June are the Geraniums and especially the large patches of Geranium x Magnificum

Collecting Pollen on Johnson's Blue

Collecting Pollen on G x Magnificum, similar stripey bottomed Bee with pollen basket

Early Morning when the Opium Poppies, Papaver somniferous are fully open they are the first to attract awakening Bees, by early evening the petals begin to close up and Bees have long switched to the blue brigade.

Papaver somniferum

Papaver somniferum

On the left of our East facing dining room window we have a large climbing Hydrangea petiolaris, in the winter we watch lots of birds flitting around the bare branches, once the flowers are open Bees are attracted too.

Hydrangea petiolaris with

Hydrangea petiolaris with White tailed bumblebee Bombus lucorum and clearly seen pollen balls.

I grow both wild native Foxgloves Digitalis purpurea and I save the seed and re sow any that spring up as white in another area of my garden. I read Foxgloves attract long tongued bumble bees only, I am not yet sure which bees have long tongues, but hopefully my foxgloves are helping. I shall watch out to see if either colour is preferred. Other plants in flower at home attracting Bees and other pollinators this month are Aquilegias, Borage, Chives, Polemonium – Jacobs Ladder, self sown Nigellas, Alliums and the aphids sticky sap on my Apple trees, I wonder why?

Phacelia and Honey Bee

Phacelia and Honey Bee

We have a wonderful organisation over here called Buglife with an excellent website highlighting the desperate flight of Invertebrates, did you know in the UK , half of our 27 bumblebee species are in decline. Three of these bumblebee species have already gone extinct. Seven bumblebee species have declined by more than 50% in the last 25 years. Two-thirds of our moths and 71% of our butterflies are in long term decline. Across Europe 38% of bee and hoverfly species are in decline; only 12% are increasing. It is estimated that 84% of EU crops (valued at £12.6 billion) and 80% of wildflowers rely on insect pollination.

We shall all go hungry if we do not get on top of this.

 

In a Vase on Monday – Fragrant Green Manure

In a Vase on Monday - scented green manure

In a Vase on Monday – Fragrant Wild marjoram, Phacelia tanacetifolia and Rosa Goldfinch

Just like black gold, green manure in the form of Phacelia tanacetifolia is invaluable in my garden. I can happily watch beneficial insects bring my garden to life enjoying the scented, generous Phacelia blooms whenever the opportunity arises. Bees are the main customer, Ladybirds, Lacewings and Hoverflies are also attracted.

In my vase today I have used Goldfinch roses as the mild weather has encouraged a few extra blooms, a little bashed by rain but the fragrance is still beautiful. I have added some Wild marjoram seed heads too, although I have them stored for drying to save the seed, they are also still faintly scented. Wild marjoram is another excellent plant for beneficial insects especially Butterflies and Bees. Its very pretty in borders and lovely in salads too!

Phacelia tanacetifolia and Rosa Goldfinch

Phacelia tanacetifolia and Rosa Goldfinch

Phacelia tanacetifolia is one of my favourite plants, I grow it in my vegetable garden as a green manure in the autumn and in borders throughout the spring and summer as its so beautiful – ferny, feathery foliage and lavender blue flowers, brought to life by the insects it attracts. Seed is incredibly easy to collect and save for resowing.

Phacelia tanacetifolia

Phacelia tanacetifolia in action

I am joining in again with Cathy’s weekly meme at Rambling in your Garden to collect plants from your garden and share in a vase, this is such a rewarding project and great fun to be involved with and my grateful thanks to Cathy for hosting, please take a look at other blogs from all over the world sharing their lovely plants and vases.

Wordless Wednesday – Phacelia tanacetifolia and a female Tree Bumblebee

Phacelia tanacetifolia and female worker bee - is this a tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) ?

Phacelia tanacetifolia and female worker bee – is this a tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) ?

Thursday 12th June Postscript. I sent a copy of this picture to the Bumblebee conservation trust who identified this bee as a Tree Bumblebee and also gave me the details of BWARS – Bees, Wasps, Ants Recording Society, who are running a Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum mapping project. This bee originated in France and BWARS are recording the spread throughout the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Organic Vegetable Garden and planning an easy crop rotation

We’ve grown our own for years and I love it, the satisfaction that comes from picking our own fresh veg, herbs and fruit for lunch, dinner, guests or just us is immense. Our garden faces east so the sunniest spot is at the bottom of the garden which is bordered by a wild field and its a place that makes me very happy. My family benefit too, I know exactly how our produce is grown plus there are no air miles involved!

The area is about 10 meters wide by 20 metres deep. We have ‘no dig’ raised beds, the plan is we do not stand on them therefore the ground does become compacted by our weight, I also work with a crop rotation plan to ensure the best health of our soil. Each year we rotate five of the six beds. One is permanently planted with Autumn Bliss Raspberries and Strawberries.

There are three main reasons for rotating crops, keep growing the same crop in the same place and the build up of potential soil borne pests and diseases affecting what you grow increases. Secondly, the same bit of soil with the same crop year after year would deplete vital soil nutrients and thirdly some crops e.g. Runner Beans (Legumes) are nitrogen fixers and they can actually benefit the crop that follows.

Rotating crops

Rotating crops

Essentially there is 5 main rotating crop groups which work best in this order, as the soil conditions and requirements for the preceding crop benefit the following crops.

Potatoes

Onions

Roots

Legumes (Beans and Peas)

Brassicas

PORLB if you grow all 5, PORL if 4 groups – not everyone likes to grow a brassica.

Its mainly straightforward, but as with all families there is the odd surprise. – Turnips and Swede are in the brassica family, but these root brassica’s generally have less troubles and than the leafy brassicas e.g. Cabbages. Some crops will just slot in anywhere as they do not carry or encourage pests and diseases such as the marrow, squash and courgette family.

Our soil is naturally sandy and low in nutrients, so to increase fertility we add in plenty of home made compost, well rotted horse manure, comfrey leaves in trenches and as a tea and ten days before sowing some pelleted chicken manure. We also sow the gorgeous Phacelia tanacetifolia as a green manure in the Autumn, if the weather is kind it may survive a mild winter. Sowings made from April add nitrogen; its seriously pretty and the bees just love it.

Phacelia tanacetifolia and female worker bee

Phacelia tanacetifolia and female worker bee

I keep a notebook to jot down which seeds I planned and what actually worked. I have a five year diary too, filled with notes on weather, wildlife visitors, birds, bees, beneficial insects, butterflies, frogs and the unwanted – slugs, snails and voles. I note what worked best and when I sowed and harvested, peppered with doodles of peas on pea sticks and the odd rude word when its goes a bit pear shaped.

Plans written down and sketched out make a crop rotation plan easy in the following years, its a great productive use of time when the weather is grim too. Its easy to plan for the next 4 years, as I will just be moving one crop to the next area the following year, thats something that can be done on any size plot too.

IMG_0052

I draw 5 boxes to represent the 5 crop groups or whatever number of crop families you are growing, dividing my chosen vegetable family selections, into the relevant family boxes.

So that’s year 1 done. To achieve a 4 year rotation, I repeat this on another 4 sheets of paper, each time moving the crops around to the next box. Voila! A four year crop rotation on paper, planned and recorded. Nothing is written in stone though and I find every year something to add in and take out, usually brassicas. I add into my plan when I intend add any home made compost, leaf mould or in the case of brassicas possibly lime. Compost and leaf mould go on any bed, the more the better.

Time well spent, leaving valuable time to sit with a cup of tea or something stronger and just take it all in, watch those insects at work, a little wildlife watching is good for the soul.

Scabious

Happy Gardening!