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Bees

Long before the internet and Kindle, I recall being taken to join the local library sometime in the 1960s. There was a display of fossilised sharks teeth in the window and the books carried a special library aroma. Although I was more into The Wind in the Willows and Black Beauty, popular authors were Kingsley Amis, Hammond Innes and Doris Lessing. From Lessing’s book ‘The Habit of Loving’, published in 1957, this quote brings to life the late summer garden.

“The smell of manure, of sun on foliage, of evaporating water, rose to my head; two steps farther, and I could look down into the vegetable garden enclosed within its tall pale of reeds – rich chocolate earth studded emerald green, frothed with the white of cauliflowers, jeweled with the purple globes of eggplant and the scarlet wealth of tomatoes.”

Aromas of manure are evocative of my own kitchen garden, as this has been the year of the compost heap. As an advocate of no-dig (saves the back and protects soil structure) I still require plenty of rich organic matter to spread on beds as a mulch. Dung from a resident Shetland pony used to nourish our heaps but since Flashman passed on, there has been a significant compost deficit. We toyed with the idea of buying weed-free municipal stuff but somehow this felt like cheating. Instead, I opted to up my game and move the heap from its shady nook down the garden to a prime site in the veg patch. Grass clippings, horse manure, weeds and green kitchen waste are applied in thin alternate layers of sappy and coarse material. In summer warmth and with a turn or two, I can excavate rich, brown, crumbly compost within six weeks. One manure-rich end, topped with soil is planted with pumpkins.

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Helping bees

  • Go pesticide free.
  • Grow a long season of nectar and pollen rich flowers such as borage. Bee species have varying tongue lengths, so a mix of flat and tubular flowers caters to all.
  • If you find what looks like a dying bee, it might just have run out of fuel. Fully stoked with nectar, a bee runs for about 30 minutes. Place your torpid bee on a flower or near some sugar water and it might revive.
  • Both bumble and solitary bees rely on rustic, undisturbed areas so leave a part of your plot wild
    and untouched.
  • In small plots with few nesting sites, add specially designed bee boxes for nests and hibernating queens.
  • Join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

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