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.

May-Hem

Being a gardener I welcome rain but it hasn’t stopped since my last blog post, it’s very soggy now with no sign of letting up and the forecast through to next week is more heavy downpours and gale force winds thrown in for good measure, slugs are just loving it and I can’t keep up with the weeding, especially at the allotment. I was a bit behind with seed sowing due to holding off because of the weather, but you know you’ve caught up when the squash and pumpkins are germinating. I’ve just finished sowing sweetcorn into pots in the conservatory where it’s warm and toasty, but I’ll hold off with beans for another week or so as I plan to sow them direct.

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In the vegetable garden there’s plenty of life and lush growth, it’s just a constant battle to keep it all safe from pests. The first sowing of peas are just beginning to flower now and the next batches are catching up in growth but I’ve had to be very creative with protecting them from pigeons who are determined to get them before we do, the usual twiggy deterrents just haven’t cut it this year.

protecting peas from pigeons

To prevent the lower leaves being stripped and clumps being pulled through the twigs, I’m using single sheets of fleece loosely wrapped around the pea sticks and tied with a knot, it all looks a bit of a faff but it seems to be working plus the fleece does help to accelerate growth. Next year I may have to use some sort of net frame and grow all the peas in one bed to keep them protected, I prefer to dot them around the garden on the ends of raised beds to save growing space but I may have to change the way we grow them.

 

protecting peas from pigeons

protecting peas from pigeons

Carrot and parsnip seedlings are up and still tucked up inside the tunnel cloches during the day to protect them from being smashed to bits by heavy downpours, at night we put panels on the ends of the cloches to keep slugs and snails out otherwise we’d lose the lot, the end panels are just off cuts of roofing sheets held in place with a short cane.

carrot seedlings

parsnip seedlings

Beets are growing but very slowly compared to other years, I wasn’t particularly happy with the first sowing of beets as I’ve said previously, they seemed very weak for some reason. The next batch are much better and hardening off ready to go outside but I’ll hold off until the weather settles down a bit. Onions were planted out last week, much later than last year, this will be the second year growing onions from seed and hopefully they’ll be just as good as last years crop.

potato leaves

Second early potatoes ‘Charlotte’ are looking strong and maincrop ‘King Edward’ are just poking through. Strawberries are looking fantastic this year, the growth is so lush. Clearly loving the extra water!

strawberry flowers

seedlings

The greenhouse is filling up but little bit behind in growth or I have sown later than I usually would, but hopefully it will all be ok and catch up. There’s little point putting too much out at the moment, it’s already a 5* restaurant out there for slugs!

Hopefully next month will be more settled. Fingers crossed.