Food for Bees and Pollinators

I can feel spring approaching, I have a warm fuzzy feeling inside just thinking about it. As I begin to open veg seed packets to sow my first crops of the year, I drift away into my own little world inside the greenhouse. My thoughts turn to warm summer days rolling into hazy golden-lit evenings, sharing food and wine with friends as I watch lazy bumble bees collecting nectar while butterflies dance overhead. I cannot imagine a garden without these necessary visitors, I wouldn’t want to either.

When you begin to sow your veg seeds why not sow some food for the bees too? Perhaps you’re already planning to plant or sow pollinator friendly plants this year, if you already include plants in your garden for our pollinators but are looking for extra year round attraction, take a look at this helpful list of trees and plants: http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardening/Sustainable-gardening/pdfs/RHS_Pollinators_PlantList

Go on, sow, plant and grow food for the bees and pollinators, you’ll be doing them a good deed and in return they’ll reward you with excellent yields from your fruit and veg garden. Not only that, your garden will be a hive of activity – a beautiful haven bursting with wildlife and year round interest.

Uses for Nettles

How often have you spotted nettles growing happily in your garden? Once again you find yourself grabbing them by the stems with gloved fingers, giving them a damn good throttling.

STOP! They’re not so bad! Read on…..

Now I realise how invasive nettles are, but if you can spare a patch for them in your garden they can be used to make really scrummy things like refreshing tea, wine, beer or soup and used the same way as spinach. Mixed with water, nettles make a nitrogen-rich feed for other plants. They are also the number one plant for certain species of butterfly and ladybirds to lay eggs, ladybirds and larvae are ferocious predators that munch on pests which of course is great news for gardeners. Nettles are fussy about where they grow, a healthy patch of nettles growing in your garden is an indicator of rich fertile soil. Nettles also make a useful addition to the compost heap by speeding up the decomposition process (but don’t use the roots) for the compost bin. Certain species of butterfly depend on nettles to reproduce, they are the primary food source for their caterpillars. Health remedies are made from nettles too. If you’re interested in finding out more about uses for nettles, you might be interested in the book 101 Uses  for Stinging Nettles by Piers Warren http://www.wildeye.co.uk/stinging-nettles/index.html

The following image is the main reason why I will always leave a patch of nettles growing wild….

 

Peacock butterfly caterpillars munching on nettles in my garden, nettles are their food plant and lets face it, butterflies need all the help they can get right now.

Snug as a Bug Box

Beneficial wildlife such as ladybirds, lacewings, bees and hoverflies are a very welcome sight here at the garden smallholding. I put a great deal of thought and care into attracting these wonderful little pollinators and pest munchers, it made perfect sense to include a safe haven for them to hibernate during winter or just escape a sudden heavy downpour.

 

Ideally the bug box should have been put in place during autumn just before the onset of winter, bit late I know but it’s already being occupied! Putting a bug box in the garden was on my to do list that I never actually got around to doing, I bought this lovely pre-made box to get a head start. I fully intend on making some boxes of my own, I have the raw materials to hand and some ideas from books and the internet to keep our bug friends safe and snug this autumn. Bugtastic!

Autumn Nectar

This welcome sight for hungry bees and other beneficial insects is the flower of Fatsia Japonica, an evergreen shrub that’s as tough as old boots. After the flowers are finished tiny purple/black seed heads are food for small birds. We planted this shrub around 5 years ago and now it must be well over 10 ft high by 9 ft wide, every autumn it’s teeming with hungry bees when the creamy white flowers emerge. They are very similar to the flower spikes of ivy Hedera helix  but are more than double the size. Flowering commences from the bottom of the spike which elongates as it matures, so it’s quite a spectacular plant when there are several spikes in flower.

Fatsia Japonica likes full shade or part shade, in full sun its deep glossy leaves will end up burnt and sickly looking but it will probably still cope!

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