“Everything in God’s creation has a purpose and a benefit, whatever it is. There is a use for everything, whether it is a dog, a cat or a hen. No matter whether it is an animal or a plant, there is a purpose behind its creation.”
Amma from “Awaken Children 3”
Bluebell, Ecclesall Woods, Sheffield
Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha
Here is a photo of a bumble bee on our allotment, on a chive flower.
We try and provide plants that are good nectar sources for insects. So far we do well for certain times of the year, but not so well for others. It is advised to try and provide nectar for as many months as possible, because even when you think there won’t be any bees around, they may come out in mild weather from late autumn to early spring.
Bees, both honey and wild bumble bees are vital for food production all over the world. A very high proportion of food crops rely on pollination by bees. Pollination by insects is responsible for 75% of the world’s food production. Foods ranging from almonds, squash, courgettes, tomatoes, apples, plums, beans, peas to name only a few all rely on pollination by insects.
We also need to save seeds for crops in the future. So certain vegetables are allowed to flower so that they can be pollinated by insects, including onions, leeks, cabbages, kale, and cauliflowers. We allow our kale to flower every year as the bees love the flowers. This has resulted in our not having to buy seeds anymore as they seem to seed themselves all over the allotment!!!
Apparently there are some parts of China, which are so highly polluted with chemicals, that all the bees are dead, and people have to pollinate the flowers of food crops by hand. This seems a very short-sighted development. The bees will do all this work for nothing, if they are just left alone to carry on doing their thing. Unfortunately, human beings seem to often specialise in this particular kind of arrogance, wild populations of insects are also threatened in America and Europe due to intensive farming and loss of habitat.
What we can do?
You can plant bee friendly flowers and shrubs in your garden. If you are planting flowers it is better to plant in concentrated patches of the same flower, rather than scattered all over as they like to feed from one type of flower at a time.
Leave small areas of dried leaves, stick and log piles, and rough grassland so that solitary bees such as our lovely bumble bees can build nests.
Here is a list of particularly bee-friendly flowers at different times of the year.
Spring: Flowers: mint family, crocus, chives, dandelions, Shrubs: current bushes, ceonanthus. Trees: apple, cherry, plum, willow trees
Summer: Flowers: foxglove, strawberry, comfrey, borage, thyme, poached egg plant, clover, penstemons, nasturtium. Shrubs: lavender, hebe, heather, blackberry, raspberry, buddleia. Trees: lime,
Autumn: Flowers: dahlia, aster, sedum, scabious, nasturtium. shrubs: ivy,
Winter: Shrubs: mahonia, winter heather.
Here is a link to another page on the Amma UK Greenfriends website, discussing issues around bees.
Well, after a very slow start to the year, things are looking a bit better on the allotment. As well as problems with the weather, part of the problem was the fact that we were behind in planting out and sowing seeds. We have now nearly caught up. The whole feel of the allotment seems different now, there is a real vibrancy in the air.
The fruit trees have baby apples and pears growing on them. The currants and gooseberries have unripe fruit, and the strawberries also have baby strawberries on them. We are hoping this year we will have a better fruit crop as last year, if you remember, was a disaster all over the country. If our over fed, fat wood pigeons don’t scoff everything we may even have some gooseberries. Here are some ripening currants.
The greenhouse is full of plants, the tomatoes are the only ones looking very strong. And the cucumbers are coming along well as well. We are already assisting pollination of the tomatoes by moving a small brush from plant to plant (the door to the greenhouse is mostly or totally closed, and so pollinating insects cannot always get in). Here is picture of our tomato flowers.
The potatoes, onions and garlic are all growing well, albeit a little bit behind. With the mixture of rain and sun they are catching up very quickly and some of the early varieties of potatoes even have flowers on them.
Here are our “brassica cages”, for broccolli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage. These are to keep the cabbage white butterfly off although we have seen them land on the netting and drop eggs, rather like a plane dropping bombs, onto the plants below. There is really not much we can do about this except applaud them on their ingenuity and check the leaves from time to time to make sure there are no caterpillars. They also stop the rotund woodpigeons from gorging on the green growth.
They are made of bamboo poles,branches tied together, with netting placed over in which there are hopefully no gaps.
The gourds are all out, and starting to grow new leaves, as are the french beans, runner beans and peas. The broad beans are almost ready to crop, and we picked out first good sized lettuce the other day.
We have also recently sown, beetroot, swede, perpetual spinach, and a new crop for us, parsnip. The carrots in their tubs have germinated but are being munched by slugs or snails. We did find two snails and as we removed them they ‘foamed’ at mus, perhaps a defence mechanism or annoyance as I explained to them that they were not welcome and were being moved far far away. However the carrots are still being munched and we have not yet been able to find the culprit.
Om Namah Shivaya
Early purple orchid, Peak District National Park