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, Cats, Insects, Mice & Rats, Pest Control, Slugs & Snails, Spiders

There’s no doubt about it: pests can be the bane of a gardener’s life. There’s nothing worse than growing the perfect crop of tomato plants, only to have them demolished by slugs and insects. Chemical pesticides can be highly effective at deterring and removing unwanted critters, however, these can be detrimental to the environment, and other beneficial wildlife. So here are some great eco-friendly pest control methods that can be equally effective.

eco-friendly pest control

Netting & Cloches

Pigeons, along with many species of insects, enjoy eating flowers and vegetable plants. Protective netting is a great way of keeping your plants safe and sound, however, there needs to be space between the net and the plant, otherwise, birds may land on the net and peck through it if they can. You can support your netting with bamboo canes or upturned pots, however, cloches and grow tunnels provide a ready-made safety system. This set of 3 Victorian Glass Bell Jar Cloches are a stylish way to protect growing plants.

Companion Planting

Companion planting involves growing your plants alongside other species that will disguise the vulnerable plants, or attract predatory insects that feed on pests. This is a great method of eco-friendly pest control, as it is harm-free, increases the biodiversity of your garden, and can also have other benefits such as improving taste and yields. Good companion plants for repelling unwanted insects include dill, fennel, allium, basil, coriander, and marigolds. Check out our full guide to companion planting here

Natural Sprays

Sprays have long been used to deter bugs from plants, however, there are plenty of eco-friendly natural alternatives to chemical pesticides. Spraying plants with water or a light soap solution can remove aphids, caterpillars, or similar insects from plants, and creating a herbal water spray from essential oils such as sage, thyme, basil, or rosemary can act as a repellent. You could also spray with a pepper or alcohol solution to deter pests.

Natural Predation 

Your garden can be a great place to support species of animal that are declining in the wild, and many of these creatures have the added benefit of ridding your garden of unwanted pests. Animals such as birds, hedgehogs, ladybirds, frogs, and lacewings are great at limiting numbers of common garden pests such as slugs and aphids. To encourage these critters into your garden, make them welcome by adding homes such as bird nest boxes, hedgehog houses, and ladybird towers. You can also add bird feeders, birdbaths, and leave out bowls of food and water for wild animals.

Organic Deterrents

Many organic substances are great for deterring unwanted pests, and are completely environmentally friendly! Many plant oils can be used as an insect deterrent, along with garlic- you can stick a clove next to your plants to drive unwanted pests away. Slugs do not like the sharp edges of eggshells, so surrounding plants with them can keep them safe from these pesky critters. Beer traps are also a common method of slug protection.

Ultrasonic Repellers

Ultrasonic repellers are a high-tech humane way of deterring a wide range of unwanted pests from your garden. These handy devices emit high-pitched noises that are beyond the range of human hearing but scare away other creatures. They can be used to keep larger creatures such as foxes, deer, and cats out of your garden, but can also be used in your house to deter pests such as spiders and mice. The Advanced Solar Mole Repeller emits low-frequency vibrations into the soil to deter moles from digging up your lawn, and the Advanced Rat and Mouse Repeller combine ultrasonic frequencies with electro-magnetic technology to keep your whole house free of rodents.

What eco-friendly pest control methods are you using? Let us know 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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Alice, Garden Design, Gardens

While flowerbeds and borders are great places to create a dazzling display, pots have the benefits of adding flexibility, variety, and a sense of staging. A potted garden can be a wonderful place to spend time, but if you’re stuck for ideas to get started, here are some design ideas for potted gardens.

design ideas for potted gardens

Pocketed Plants

If you’re short of space, plant pockets are the perfect compact solution. Our Living Wall Felt Planter hangs easily against a wall, fence, or balcony, and provides 6 small pockets that make great homes for small plants or herbs. You can also create your own using an over-the-door shoe organiser!

Plant Ladder

A plant ladder is an eye-catching addition to any garden or terrace and offers plenty of space for small plants. Our Outdoor Wooden Triangular Ladder offers three shelves to display items and add levels to your garden. You can also upcycle an old ladder with a fresh coat of paint.

Wall Planter

A wall planter is a fantastic space-saving solution if you have a smaller garden, and can be a great way to brighten up a boring wall. Our Rusted Metal Vase Wall Planter adds style and character to your garden with rustic Greek-style urns.

Wellington Boots

Wellington boots make a unique way to display trailing plants. Our Pair Of Wellington Boots Planters have a rusted weathered finish and look amazing filled with tumbling plants. You can also upcycle an old pair of wellington boots for an eye-catching addition to your garden or patio.

Climbing Plants

No longer restricted to the ground, potted plants can be used to liven up a plain wall with lush greenery. Our Trough With Trellis Hardwood Planter provides a planting area with a wooden trellis for plants to climb up. Fill with beautiful climbing roses or clematis for a glorious display.

Parallel Planters

Jumbo-sized planters packed with plants are a great way to provide screens of green. Placing them in parallel rows is a great way to create a walkway or secluded area. The classic look of The Big One Terracotta Pot Planter makes an impressive and stylish addition to your garden.

Wishing Well

A wishing well planter makes an attractive focal point for a patio or area of your garden and is a great way to house a range of plants. Our Large Wishing Well Wooden Planter is made from Swedish timber using sustainable resources and can be built in under half an hour.

Water Feature

A water feature planter serves the dual purpose of housing greenery while adding the ambient sound of gently flowing water to your outdoor space. It can also make a fantastic focal point. The Easter Island Solar Head Water Feature makes a stunning but natural-looking addition to your garden and comes with LED lights so you can enjoy it after dark.

Now you’ve got your design ideas for potted gardens, make sure to check out our guide to how to plant in pots to get growing!

What have you been up to in your potted garden? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.