Alice, Animals, Conservation, Gardening, Organic, Wildlife

Bees are highly beneficial creatures, responsible for pollination an estimated 80% of the western diet. However, due to attack from the varroa mite and agricultural pesticides, their numbers have been in steady decline. British gardens cover a combined area estimated at over 10 million acres, and as agricultural land becomes less bountiful for pollinators, they are becoming increasingly important in conserving bees and the environment as a whole. So here are some eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees you can use to help preserve pollinators and the planet.

eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees

Go wild

An immaculate garden is great for impressing the neighbours, but not so great for wildlife. To encourage bees and other wildlife, allow your garden to grow a little wild, with overgrown shrubs and climbers, leaves, and dead stems. It is a good idea to allow an area of your grass to grow long, which will allow wildflowers to grow and increase insect diversity. Allowing a few weeds to flourish also provides food for insects.

Choose open flowers

Bees need flowers to feed on the nectar, and how accessible the nectar makes a big difference. Open flowers such as daisies, or any set on a “bobble” such as thistles are perfect. Unhybridized species tend to be a richer source of pollen than elaborately-bred show blooms. Bees also love fruit trees, flowering trees, legumes, blackberries, and ivy. Growing a variety of species is also important for attracting a diverse range of wildlife.

Avoid chemical pesticides

Pesticides and insecticides can be highly efficient in disposing of unwanted pests, however, these chemicals do not discriminate, and will also destroy many beneficial organisms. Alternative methods to protect your plants include using copper rings or beer traps to deter slugs; covering plants with fleece or netting; and encouraging pest-eating animals such as birds and hedgehogs into your garden. Companion planting can also be highly effective. Garlic, dill, chives, borage, basil, and nasturtium are good pest deterrents, and planting spring onions near carrot plants can deter carrot fly.

Composting

Peat-based compost and synthetic fertilisers are damaging to the environment, as naturally-occurring peat bogs absorb a great amount of carbon dioxide, and the process of making synthetic fertilizers can emit CO2. Making your own compost is an eco-friendly alternative that has the added advantage of recycling your household waste. You can compost leaves and other foliage; grass and wood cuttings; dead plants and shrubs; leftover food such as vegetable peelings; and old newspaper, cardboard, and paper. Avoid any diseased plant parts, anything sprayed with pesticides, or pet waste. You can use a ready-made compost bin, create your own using a metal bin or plastic bag, or simply pile up the compost material. Composting is also great for wildlife as it enhances the bacterial and fungal life in your garden.

Eco-friendly water

Not only can a garden water supply be great for wild birds, but it is also important for bees. A garden pond is ideal, but otherwise, you could put out a bucket or tray filled with water. There are some great eco-friendly alternatives to lessen the demand on mains water. A water butt can store rainwater, which is great for watering plants as it is chemical-free, and it can also be used for filling your wildlife drinking area. Add rocks, or floating plants or wine corks to give bees a safe place to land. For watering plants, you can also purchase a greywater diverter to reuse water from your kitchen sink, showers, and baths.

Bee Hotels

Many species of bee are on the decline due to lack of suitable nesting areas, so a bee hotel is a great way to help bees in your garden. These handy homes provide a sheltered area for rainy days, along with purpose-built tubes for female bees to lay their eggs. You could even build your own bee hotel with bamboo canes. Place in a sunny area facing south to the south-east at least a metre off the ground, and watch as bees come to stay.

20th May is World Bee Day, so make sure to get involved and spread the word about the plight of garden bees. You can read more about bee conservation here. You can also let us know what eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees you have been using on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

 

 

Alice, Conservation, Gardening, How To

Wildflower meadows are a pollinators’ paradise. Bursting with a diverse range of nectar sources, these magnificent meadows were a haven for bees, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. However, since the 1930s, we have lost over 99% of these areas, which is a likely contributing factor to the decline of the bee population. Luckily, there are ways of recreating these biodiversity patches in the comfort of your own back garden. Not only can these wild patches look fantastic, but they are also great for supporting bees along with other pollinators and wildlife. Here is how to grow a wildflower meadow in your garden.

how to grow a wildflower meadow

What is a Wildflower Meadow?

A wildflower meadow, or bio-diversity patch, is an area of grass where wildflowers grow. They occur naturally in the British countryside, referred to as semi-natural or unimproved grasslands, but can be created manually. These spaces attract a multitude of wildlife and provide an eye-catching alternative to lawns and flowerbeds.

Annuals & Perennials

Perennial wildflower meadows are more representative of those found naturally. These meadows are most successful in larger areas and may take years to fully establish. They thrive best on poor soils so the grasses will not crowd out the flowers. 

Although not a true meadow, annual wildflower meadows can create a bold display of colour for a season. Unlike perennials, these wildflowers grow better in rich, fertile soil. Some seed mixtures contain a mixture of annuals and perennials. 

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow Step by Step

1. Choose your area

The first step to creating your wild meadow is to select an area of your garden for it to occupy. It needs to be an open space in a sunny position, but can be on flat or sloping ground. You may choose an area of your lawn, or an unused flower bed or border. The plant seeds can be planted into the soil or an established grass area. 

2. Reduce fertility

Highly fertile soil encourages excess vigour in grasses causing them to crowd out wildflowers, so if your soil has been enriched with fertiliser, it may be too rich for growing a perennial wild meadow. You can reduce the fertility of the soil by removing 3-6 inches of topsoil using a turf cutter or spade, or plant a crop of mustard plants as these will absorb a lot of nutrients. If you are planting your wildflowers on an existing lawn, stop using fertiliser and weed killer beforehand. This step can be skipped if you are planting an annual wildflower meadow.

3. Prepare the soil

If you are sowing in soil, making sure to prepare the ground beforehand. Rake the soil to a fine tilth (like breadcrumbs), then lay some black plastic sheeting over it so any existing weeds in the soil germinate then die. If your soil contains stronger perennial weeds such as docks, nettles, and dandelions, you may need to employ some chemical weed control to eliminate them. Use a systemic glyphosate-based weed killer. You can then water if necessary. If you are planting on a lawn, mow the lawn to less than 5cm long before sowing wildflowers.

4. Sow the seeds

Now time for the fun part- sowing the seeds! There are some great wildflower seed mixtures out there, which offer a ready-made diverse meadow. Our Wildflower Mixture Seeds offer a colourful variety of native flowers, and our Wildlife Attracting Garden Varieties Mixed Seeds have been specifically selected to attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial pollinators into your garden. If you prefer, you can also choose your own selection of flowers. Good varieties include ox-eye daisies, red clover, cowslip, and field scabious. The most useful addition is the yellow rattle, which has the magic ability to reduce the vigour of grasses. Rattle, eyebright, and lousewort can also be effective. 

You will need about 5 grams of seed per square metre of meadow. Scatter the seeds as you walk across the ground; there is no need to cover with soil, but gently walk across the seeds afterwards to make sure they are in contact with the soil. If you are converting a lawn into a meadow, using wildflower plug plants can be a good option. Keep growing plants well-watered until they are established, and protect from birds and slugs.

5. Maintenance

In the first year of growth, cut your wild meadow in July-August. In subsequent years, cut it from September onwards once the summer is over, and perhaps again in early spring. For a small meadow, you can use a strimmer or a power scythe; larger areas can be cut with a power scythe. Leave the cut hay on the patch for a week so the seeds can drop, then clear away and compost to prevent the soil from becoming too rich. 

You may need to do some weeding to remove dock, nettles and thistles. It is a good idea to water annual wildflowers while they establish. Perennial meadows should be left to grow naturally without any additional water.

Your meadow will continue to evolve year by year; some may take years to establish properly and flower, with some species overtaking others over time. You may wish to add more flowers as you go along, particularly if you are using annual species which die after one blooming season. Wildflower meadows will attract bees and butterflies- you may also see bats, birds, grasshoppers, and other wildlife.

20th May is World Bee Day, so make sure to get involved and spread the word about the plight of garden bees. You can read more about bee conservation here. You can also let us know how your wildflower meadow is growing on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

 

 

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Conservation, Current Issues, Events, Scott, Sustainable Living, Wildlife

What is Earth Day?

Climate Activism

Earth Day is an annual series of demonstrations and events that push engagement with issues surrounding the environment on a global scale. This year’s events focus on climate action. In a year where we’ve been inspired by individuals like Greta Thunberg and groups like Extinction Rebellion its time to put plans into action and halt the growing crisis.

When is Earth Day?

Earth Day takes place every year on April 22nd.  

Important Dates

April 22nd 1970 marked the first Earth Day. It acted as a voice for growing environmental concern in a world that was beginning to consume more and more. The Paris Agreement was signed on Earth Day 2016; this is perhaps the most important declaration for change that has occurred for the environment. Nations have pledged to hit strict targets for lowering carbon emissions, protecting ecosystems, investing in green businesses and a whole host of other topics. 

Green Energy - Off Shore WInd farm

Why is 2020 so important?

Earth Day 20202020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth day. Since 1970, the event has grown to include millions of people across thousands of organisations. That’s people and nations all over the world who have pledged to do their part and take action. In a year that’s already seen the damage created by extreme weather the time for action has never been clearer.

How can I get involved?

There are many things you can do as an individual to help celebrate Earth Day 2020. Below are just a few ways you can engage with the day this year:

  1. Research the history of Earth Day and the many achievements they’ve helped bring about. Spread the word about the day and its importance in the world today.
  2. Charities all over the world are dedicated to tackling the issues that Earth Day engages with. Supporting these charities with your time or your money is a great way to ensure their work continues.
  3. If change is going to come about it has to come from the organisations and business that affect are day-to-day lives and the best way to bring this about is with individuals holding business to account. Contact the businesses you regularly engage with and question their green credentials; let them know that you take their effects on the environment seriously.
  4. World wide change can start in your own back garden. Local wildlife is essential for healthier ecosystems. You can set up habitats and feeding stations or plant a wildflower meadow to help your local environment out; a small action that if done collectively can make a difference nationwide! 

Wildflower Meadow

Scott at PrimroseScott Roberts is a copywriter currently making content for the Primrose site and blog. When at his desk he’s thinking of new ways to describe a garden bench. Away from his desk he’s either looking at photos of dogs or worrying about the environment. He does nothing else, just those two things.

See all of Scott’s posts.

 

Alice, Animals, Celebrations And Holidays, Conservation, Valentine's Day, Wildlife

Conservation has become a hot topic during the past year, so why not try something a little different this Valentine’s Day and give a gift for the garden? Not only are these gifts bound to impress with their originality, but they can also help preserve wild birds and hedgehogs, and support eco-friendly initiatives. So discover our edit of our top garden conservation gifts.

Saltbox Bird House

garden conservation gifts

As holes in trees and buildings are disappearing due to maintenance work, natural nesting sites for birds are on the decline, so garden nest boxes are becoming increasingly important for conserving wild birds. Inspired by traditional coastal saltbox houses, our Saltbox Bird House in plum has a beautiful vintage saltbox design along with inbuilt drainage and ventilation. Purchase as a Valentine’s gift in order to put it up just in time for nesting season!

Kool Kombi Recycled Steel Ice Bucket Cooler

The Kool Kombi Recycled Steel Ice Bucket Cooler is a gift that will be highly appreciated come summer. This quirky drinks cooler is made in Vietnam using recycled oil drums delivering a unique design each time, and providing employment for local workers. Not only is it eco-friendly and socially-conscious, this heavily-insulated design has ample space and can keep drinks cool in high Australian temperatures for up to 4 hours, so will work an absolute treat here in Britain!

Woodland Bird and Ladybird Garden Gift Box

garden conservation gifts

Welcome both birds and ladybirds into your garden with the Woodland Bird and Ladybird Garden Gift Box. This handy set provides a bird nesting pocket, ladybird tower, wildflower seeds, and instructive guide that will enable you to attract diverse wildlife into your garden. These creatures are highly beneficial to your garden, as they help manage pests such as slugs, snails, and aphids to keep your plants healthy.

Igloo Hedgehog Home

Our Igloo Hedgehog Home is a great gift that makes a welcome addition to your garden. Surveys suggest that hedgehog numbers have declined by up to 50% since the turn of the century as hedgerows and field margins are lost to intensive farming, so providing sanctuary in your garden is increasingly important. This wicker habitat offers hedgehogs and other small mammals a safe haven from predators, pets, and garden tools.

Heart Shaped Cast Iron Bird Bath/ Feeder

valentines day gardening gifts

Food supplies often run short for wild birds, particularly during the winter, and fresh water for drinking and bathing can also be hugely beneficial for them. The Heart Shaped Cast Iron Bird Bath/ Feeder is perfectly-themed for Valentine’s Day and adds a quaint touch to your garden. This versatile piece can be used either as a bird feeder or birdbath.

Diamond Blanket/ Throw

valentines day gardening gifts

Get nice and cosy this Valentine’s Day with our Diamond Blanket/ Throw. This stylish blanket is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, an innovative and eco-friendly alternative of reusing waste. The geometric diamond design is finished with tassels for extra flare, and is perfect for cuddling up under both indoors and outdoors.

Wildlife Natural Rock Pond-In-A-Pot Kit

garden conservation gifts

Create a wonderful watering hole for wildlife with our Wildlife Natural Rock Pond-In-A-Pot Kit. One of our top garden conservation gifts, this model creates a great home for frogs, newts, and insects, and provides drinking water for birds and small mammals. This no-hassle kit has everything you need to create a pond in four easy steps, filled with beautiful, wildlife-attracting plant life.

Check out our guide to find out more about how to help wildlife in your garden.

What are you getting your loved one this Valentine’s Day? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!