Saturday, 8 March 2014

Spring in the air

So how was it for you? Wettest winter since the dawn of time etc etc. And so mild. I've been cropping purple sprouting broccoli for a fortnight now when usually it's not ready till the end of March, not that I'm complaining. Plans for the year ahead - lots more plants for bees and butterflies of course - watch this space.

Early season flowers for bees and butterflies

Three species of butterfly seen on the plot this weekend with the warm weather - small tortoiseshell, peacock and comma. And plenty of queen bees coming out of hibernation and bumbling about. Here's a few nectar sources for them from around my plot and garden:

Crocus

 Rosemary

 Cherry plum blossom

 Erysimum "Bowle's Mauve"

 Hellebores

Pulmonaria

Friday, 7 March 2014

Records 2014

Acillea F2 hybrid "Summer Pastels" (HP) - Sown in seed pot in greenhouse 22.3. Pricked out 12.4 to medium modules x20.

Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) (HHP) - Sown in heated propagator 29.3. Moved to greenhouse 5.4. Pricked out 18.4 to medium modules x20.

Borage - Sown direct by strawbs 11.4. 

Broad beans "Aquadulce" - Sown last autumn in coldframe, 9cm pots x24. 8 planted out 24.2. More sown in coldframe in pots x12. 6 planted out 10.4.

Cabbage "Greyhound" - Sown in greenhouse 28.3, deep root trainers x20 and small modules x20.

Carrot "Early Nantes" - Sown 28.3. in trough in greenhouse.

Clover (white) - for path - Sown 11.3.

Cosmos "Candy Stripe" (saved seed) - Sown 4.4 in greenhouse, small modules x20.

Cosmos "Pied Piper" - Sown 22.3 in greenhouse, small modules x10. Potted on 18.4 to 9cm pots x5.

Dahlia coccinea "Species Mixed" - Sown in greenhouse 22.3, small modules x20. Potted on to 9cm pots from 18.4.

Dianthus cruentus (Blood Pink) (HP) - Sown 22.3 in heated propagator, small modules x20. Moved to greenhouse 29.3.

Echium plantaginium "Dwarf Blue Bedder" - Sown 22.3 in greenhouse, small modules x10. Potted on 12.4 to 9cm pots x4. And 2 short rows sown direct 11.4.

Helichrysum monstrosum "Eternity" - Sown in seed pot in greenhouse 28.3. Pricked out 18.4 to medium modules x12.

Heliotrope "Marine" - Sown 22.3 in seed pot in greenhouse. Moved to heated prop 29.3. Poor germination, more sown 4.4 as before in heated propagator.

Hyssop officinalis - Sown 28.3 on paper towel indoors at room temp out of direct sunlight. Seedlings moved into small modules x30 in greenhouse1.4.

Knautia arvensis (Field Scabious) - Sown in coldframe 28.3, small modules x20.

Madia elegans "Tropical Fruits" - Sown 22.3 in greenhouse, small modules x20. Potted on 18.4 to 9cm pots x12.

Monarda fistulosa "Bergamot" (Bee Balm) (HP) - Sown in seed pot in heated propagator 22.3. Moved to greenhouse 28.3. Pricked out 12.4 to medium modules x20.

Nicotiana "Lime Green" - Sown 22.3 in seed pot in greenhouse. Moved to heated prop 29.3. Back to greenhouse 5.4. Pricked out 18.4 to medium modules x20.

Pea "Kelvedon Wonder" - Sown in greenhouse 7.3, 9cm pots x48, 3 seeds per pot. Germination in 15 pots by 28.3; moved to coldframe. Planted out and rest of row sown direct 10.4.

Phacelia tanacetifolia "Lisette" - Sown broadcast 19.4.

Potato "Pentland Javelin" - Bought in for chitting 7.3. Planted out 10.4, 30cm apart, 15cm deep.

Salad Leaves "Mixed" - Sown in 15cm pot in greenhouse 28.3.

Salvia farinacea "Victoria" (HHP) - Sown 22.3 in seed pot in heated propagator. Moved to greenhouse 28.3. Pricked out 12.4 to medium modules x20.

Scabiosa "Oxford Blue" - Sown in greenhouse 22.3, small modules x20. Potted on 18.4 to 9cm ots x12.

Sweet Pea "Giant Waved" (saved seed) - Sown in coldframe last autumn, planted out 10.3.

Tomato "Gardeners Delight" - Sown 22.3 in heated propagator, small modules x10. Moved to greenhouse 28.3. Potted on 12.4 to 9cm pots x7.

Wild Rocket - Sown in seed pot in greenhouse 30.3. Pricked out 18.4 to medium modules x12.

MEADOW MIX

Pictorial Meadows Annual Mix sown broadcast 19.4 with added saved seed (corn marigolds, snapdragons) and ammi majus, scabious "tall double mixed", cornflower "black ball".

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Autumn

'Tis the season - in danger of falling fruit, mystical fruitiness and all that.

Plenty to eat from the plot as usual especially fruit - blackberries, raspberries, grapes, pears, tons of plums and apples.


And spiders - lots of spiders:

Late season plants for pollinators

Many of the plants for bees and butterflies which were flowering in summer are still going strong: phacelia, nepeta, nicotiana, rose campion, snapdragons and the lovely cosmos:


And these helechrysum...



...still popular with the bees...


Not forgetting the scabious:



And the Verbena bonariensis:


Some like this Anthemis tinctoria "Sauce Hollandaise" are having a second flowering:


Whilst the perrennial wallflower "Bowle's Mauve" has been flowering non-stop since early spring:




Then there are those which save their display until now. Amongst them are the asters; some of the older varieties are prone to mildew but others like "Little Carlow" are always reliable:



This A. frikartii "Monch" has been flowering since July...



...But this A. novae angliae "Barr's Pink" which I planted new this year has only just opened it's buds:



You can see where the comma gets it's name from:


Another new one which has just come out is this Eupatorium purpureum subsp "Atropurpureum", another great butterfly plant:



But the bees favourite at the moment is this Helenium "Lemon Queen":


Also in colour:



Saturday, 31 August 2013

August

The thing I like most about August is that there's nothing much to do. No sowing or planting or staking, just a bit of weeding and dead heading, some watering. It's a time for raking in the harvest and sitting back and admiring my handiwork.

Plenty to eat - potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, cabbages, kale, tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries and the first plums.

Lots of bees and butterflies enjoying the flowers - it's been a good summer for them too. Except for the lavender all the plants that were flowering in July are still out now. And to top it all I was blessed with a visit from a clouded yellow, very rare in these parts.


More sexy pics

 Plot in August looking gorgeous even if I do say so myself.

 Lush scabious has to be one of the best plants for bees and butterflies...

 ...yes I should say so...

 ...and this veronica...

...but what's this...

 ...that's better...

 ...gimmee gimmee...

 ...so pink...

...ah that's the money shot.

Habitat


It's all very well having all these plants for pollinators but they also need places to live and breed. The top of my plot behind the trees is where I chuck all my rammel - prunings, bits of wood, piles of bricks, slabs, bits of junk that might come in handy. It might look like a tip - actually it is a tip - but to the bees it's home sweet home. No need for silly "bee hotels" and the like if you've got a tip.

For the caterpillars of our colourful garden butterflies like peacocks, small tortoiseshells and red admirals only one plant really matters - the stinging nettle. I've got several patches around the edges of my plot (especially in the tip) and it's always fascinating to watch the caterpillars munching their way through them.

The grassland species like meadow browns, gatekeepers and ringlets depend on - no surprise - grass. The grass needs to left long until the end of the season; in my orchard I leave it until the fruit is ready to be picked. I strimmed it down under my plum tree a couple of weeks ago and under the apple trees today. I'll leave the rest of it until the end of autumn as there's quite a few wild flowers in there too - flowering at the moment is ragwort, tufted vetch, field bindweed and knapweed. And since I've been leaving the grass long I've noted two new species here - the large skipper and small copper.

So there you go - habitat for bees and butterflies: a tip, nettles and long grass. Hardly surprising that urban allotments are so rich in wildlife.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar on ragwort.

Small tortoiseshell caterpillars on stinging nettle.

Small copper.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

July

Phew what a scorcher. It ain't half hot mum. Etc, etc. Plenty to eat from the plot as per - peas and French beans, cabbages and kale, tomatoes, strawberries and raspberries, rocket, carrots and new potatoes...I've posted dozens of pics of these in previous years but in case you've forgotten what they look like here's a couple more:

 Some peas

A cabbage patch

Hottest summer for a long time. So many butterflies on my plot today - battalions of whites, 100+ gatekeepers, 50+ tortoiseshells - so it's just as well there's plenty of nectar for them: my buddleia is only just coming out so the tortoiseshells have been favouring the scabious and the perennial wallflower whilst the gatekeepers have mainly been going for the marjoram and the whites have been monopolising the verbena bonariensis.

 Small tortoiseshell on cultivated field scabious...

 ...underwing view...

...so many to choose from!

Gatekeeper on marjoram...

...and a large white on verbena bonariensis.