Pardon the Weeds, We’re Feeding the Bees

The bottom of our vegetable garden has always been a difficult weedy spot, the usual suspects such as nettles and docks with some rather beautiful cow parsley. For a couple of years we tried to tame this area to turn it over to growing food, but over time we realised it wasn’t going to happen.

The first year we tried digging it all out removing as much root as we could. They came back. The second year we tried covering with cardboard to block out light and nutrients. They came back again. Weed killer is a big NO in our garden, so this left us with one option – leave it be and let it go wild. And you know what, I’m so glad we did! Alive with bees and other wildlife, this has quickly become our favourite part of the garden.

A log pile in the garden can be home to many types of garden wildlife. How cute is this mouse?! I probably won’t think so when she steals my peas!!

The nettle patches and docks are flowering now and attracting small moths we have never seen in the garden before. Bees and hoverflies flock to the cow parsley flowers which are just starting to go over. We added a little pond at the beginning of the year which has blended in beautifully and already home to some rather fat tadpoles, the frog and newt population in our garden has grown from strength to strength since putting in numerous wildlife ponds over the years, the total count now is 3 wildlife ponds (no fish) with one large fish pond near the house. It’s so lovely to watch bees and birds drinking from them too.

We planted buddleia which are very attractive to butterflies when in flower and sown numerous wildflower seed mixes.

The wood forget-me-not further down the border were already well established and such a welcome sight in spring, we have enjoyed the flowers for much longer this year due to the prolonged cold/wet weather in May. On the far side of the garden near the compost bins we decided to leave a section of grass to grow, just a wide strip which has become a refuge for frogs during the hot weather we’ve been having lately.

If you can, allow a section of your garden or allotment to grow wild. It doesn’t have to be large, just a small area can be a safe haven or source of food for garden visitors.

Bugs and Bees

ladybird

My allotment plot and garden welcome many species of beneficial wildlife, such as hoverflies, lacewings, bees, ladybirds, butterflies (yes, butterflies are very welcome on my plot!) and lovely little mason bees. I grow plenty of flowers throughout the year to attract them, and my organic approach to gardening ensures there will always be food in the form of juicy aphids.

ladybird in a bug box

Providing bee and bug boxes in your garden helps to attract the good guys too, these safe hidey places are essential for surviving cold winters and reproduction with certain species.

bee on salvia flower

Lacewing

Mason bees visit my plot to use the bee boxes as nests to reproduce, I find it fascinating to watch females carrying mud to seal the entrance to a nesting tube. In turn, they pollinate my fruit bushes and most probably my plot neighbours too.

Comma butterfly

Some of my boxes were purchased or gifted, and some were made using scraps of wood nailed together to form a box and filled with hollowed out bamboo canes. Online gardening shops and garden centres sell bee or bug boxes, I recently picked up a couple of nice examples from Waitrose and Poundstretcher stores.

bee and bug box

I re-painted the Waitrose bee box (pictured above right) using a tester pot by Cuprinol Garden Shades (country cream).

bee and bug boxes collage

I’m planning to make a bug ‘hotel’ using stacked pallets and other materials inserted into the gaps between each pallet. Now is a great time to provide some shelter for our helpful beasties, they’ll repay your favour by munching on the bugs you really don’t want on your veg. And, if you’re really lucky, you might just see mason bees nesting in your boxes from late April onwards.