Monthly Archives: June 2019

Ecosystems

9 June 2019

Looking around the gardens lately, we’ve realised that we’re finally getting close to our original aim of creating an ecosystem, where all the different elements in the garden work together. Apart from growing only bee-friendly plants, we’ve also been focusing on soil health, and the rest of the benefits seem to flow from that – far fewer weeds, less need to water, and plants that establish quickly and really thrive.

Rather than turning over the soil between plants with trowels to remove weeds, which damages soil structure, and just brings yet more weed seeds to the surface, we’ve been adding mulches of compost or leaf mould on top of the soil to keep light out and stop any weed seeds from germinating. The mulches also add soil organic matter, which improves soil structure and helps to make more nutrients available to plants, and they keep moisture in by slowing down evaporation.

We worked hard to remove the more invasive weeds like self-heal, white clover and sheep’s sorrel, and now it only takes a few minutes to weed the beds by scraping any weeds out – they come out easily from areas that have been mulched. Over the last year or so we’ve added back more of the native plants that thrive in the soil and light conditions here, particularly red and white deadnettles, foxgloves and Welsh poppies, all of which are real bee magnets.

We’ve also noticed far more insects and other invertebrates around the gardens this year, and many more different types, too.

Most of this doesn’t apply to the bed nearest the car park, which we need to dig over every year as we grow cornfield annuals there, which prefer to grow in newly-disturbed soil. We do add leaf mould to that bed, to improve soil structure without adding too much fertility. We’ve also added or left a number of perennial native plants there, like black medick, red clover, deadnettles, geranium sanguineum and devil’s bit scabious; and now that bed seems to be beginning to form its own separate ecosystem, too

 

Green ripples

6 June 2019

Over the years, we’ve been very happy to discover that we’ve helped in a small way to spread the idea of gardening for bees and wildlife, and of how it’s possible to create small gardens on unused patches of ground. One unintentional consequence of these gardens, and SBFoE’s other eighteen bee-friendly sites around the town, has been to inspire other people to include a few bee-friendly plants in their gardens.

Recent posts on the blog have described how we’ve been supplying our sister site outside Bossard House in West Street, opposite Leighton-Linslade In Bloom’s stunning drought garden, which inspired us to try a north-facing drought garden; we’ll be posting soon about the Pocket Park up next to the railway station, which the team has also been helping with (another shade garden, only this time there are three trees there as well which keep most of the rainfall off the ground below, and there’s only a few inches of soil there anyway, just to keep us on our horticultural toes).

And there’s a much smaller site inspired by this place – if you ever go to the Majestic wine warehouse on Leighton Road, next to St Christopher’s garage, look out for the two green ‘cycle park’ troughs outside the doors – they were also planted up by the team working here, and now the staff there look after them. A year ago they were just bare earth, unloved and unused; then some of the In Bloom volunteers gave the staff a few plants that had been left over from their plant stall in June 2018, and the staff asked one of the Memorial Gardens team for advice when they wanted to build on that gift. We were standing talking next to a display of craft gins, many of which referred to the ‘botanicals’ used to flavour them – and suddenly, we had a theme! So you’ll see rosemary, lavender, thyme, sage, mint, lemon balm and other bee-friendly plants that are sometimes used to flavour or colour gins. Originally the planters were sited on the corner of the building by the wide drive, which meant they got quite a bit of sunshine and the Mediterranean herbs thrived; now they’ve been moved to the doorway, they get a lot of light but not much sunshine. So we’re already looking out for shade- and bee-friendly gin botanical plants for them – any ideas would be welcome!

The current exception to the ‘botanicals’ theme is the acid-yellow nemesia, which is there just because we wanted to inject some colour into the planting and couldn’t resist these plants from local nursery Potash Plants – perhaps we were thinking of the ‘amnemesia’ that might follow over-indulgence!