Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions
(mostly from passers-by while we’ve been working at the gardens)

Why do you need to garden especially for bees?

Bee populations have been declining rapidly over the last few decades, mainly because of habitat loss, the effects of industrial agriculture and the use of pesticides and herbicides (which destroy many plants that provided nectar and pollen), and disease. For more information, see the blog

 How many of you look after the gardens?

The regular team consists of five residents from the road running behind the gardens, but we have occasional group sessions with South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth members, e.g. to use weed wands on the paths to destroy weeds by heat (rather than using herbicides, which leave the paths looking untidy while the weeds die, and whose safety is constantly being questioned).

We also have various groups helping us survey the wildlife and wild flowers throughout the year, and the local preschool help us water, and look after one of the beds.

Why are there so many dead leaves around some of the plants?

They’re the remains of the mulch we put on rather hastily in May (2018), when we realised there was likely to be a bit of a drought for a few weeks; if we cover the soil with a mulch, we can keep moisture in the beds so that we don’t have to water so much. Last year we didn’t use a hose at all, and even this year, when we’ve been establishing the standard roses and other shrubs, we’ve only had to get the hose out a couple of times to give them a good soak to encourage their roots to go deep into the soil for moisture.

Mulching also keeps weeds down, which saves on volunteer time and keeps the beds looking tidier. By September 2018 we realised that we haven’t had a weeding session since the spring tidy-up in May; one or two of the beds are looking a bit scruffy with emerging seedlings, but we want to wait a couple more weeks to let seeds like California poppies and cerinthe germinate. Then we’ll scrape the seedlings we don’t want off the surface – it doesn’t take long when the area’s been mulched well – and put compost and/or leaf mould down again to cover the soil before winter.

We’ll probably also mulch the beds nearest the war memorial with composted bark, which we’re trialling this year; it should make them look better for the Remembrance services in November.

If you don’t use peat or plants grown in it, where do you get all the plants from?

Mostly we grow our own now, many of them from cuttings of plants put in when we dug out the gardens in 2014; we have also transferred from the team’s own gardens a number of plants that really attract bees, like the pulmonaria, coreopsis, penstemons, hyssop, geums, heleniums and Michaelmas daisies.

We do also buy in specific plants, in which case we use one of the many nurseries that grow in peat-free compost – there’s a list of them here, on Nic Wilson’s blog, And of course, many growers just grow plants in soil anyway, and lift them when they despatch them; for example, our roses came from Peter Beale’s, where they were grown in the ground.