Animals, Conservation, Insects, Megan, Wildlife

On the whole, people hate wasps. Unlike their furry cousins, bees, they tend to be swatted away and squashed a lot more, the poor things. But wasps are widely misunderstood creatures. Similarly to bees, wasps have seen a reduction in numbers of 50% in the last 20 years. To find out why we should be protecting wasps as well as bees (yes, really) and how you can help, read on.

Why We Should Be Protection Wasps As Well As Bees

Why Do Wasps Sting?

I know, I know. Most of you will be thinking, why should we protect wasps? They sting people for no reason. So let’s clear on thing up before we get onto why we should be protecting them – that’s not actually true!

Most people get stung by wasps in late summer, when their colonies are beginning to prepare for winter hibernation. During this time, a lot of the wasps die off, and breeding of worker wasps ceases. The remaining worker wasps are left confused and disorientated by these changes – yes, wasps get confused too! In addition, there is also a lack of food as autumn approaches, leaving wasps in further despair.

Imagine that your whole world has changed, you’re starving, then you are approached by a giant flapping around trying to squash you. We would be stressed too! When a wasp feels this stress, it gets hostile and ends up stinging. Wasps are also territorial creatures, so if you approach a nest, you are also likely to get stung.

Why We Should Be Protection Wasps As Well As Bees

Species of Wasp

There are around 20,000 different species of wasp, and most are solitary wasps which don’t sting. The wasp species we are most familiar with in the UK is the Common Wasp. You will frequently see the Common Wasp buzzing about your garden, especially during summer time.

The Common Wasp live in large colonies and build their nests within cavities in houses and roofs. Their nests are constructed from a paper like material, made by the queen chewing on wood.

Why We Should Be Protection Wasps As Well As Bees

Wasps as Predators

Wasps are extremely important to the environment. They are vital predators to pests such as greenflies and caterpillars. Without wasps, the overall insect population would be considerably higher and many a field of crop would be destroyed by disease.

They are viewed as a beneficial insect by many farmers, and are increasingly being used as a natural pest control for crops such as celery and lettuce. The use of wasps as pest control also decreases the need for toxic chemicals that are very damaging to our environment.

Why We Should Be Protection Wasps As Well As Bees

Wasps as Disease-Fighters

Wasps are also protecting you. Many human diseases are spread by insects that are the prey of wasps.

In addition, a study has shown that one species of wasp could help tackle cancer. The venom of the Polybia paulista species of wasp was found to destroy various types of cancerous cells. It is definitely viable that the finding from further study of wasps could be used in cancer treatment in the future.

Why We Should Be Protection Wasps As Well As Bees

Wasps as Pollinators

Although not widely known, wasps are pollinator of many crops and flowers. It is a common misconception that bees are the only pollinators. Some research even shows that wasps are exclusive pollinators for some species of orchid.

Why We Should Be Protection Wasps As Well As Bees

Fig wasps are vital in the pollination of figs. Fig trees depend on wasps to make their seeds and distribute pollen. This partnership is something that has existed for millions of years. It involves the female fig wasp burying itself into the fig, and if the fig is male, laying her eggs. The wasp then dies inside the fig. The eggs left eventually hatch into larvae, burrow out and take the pollen with them. If the fig is female, the female wasp pollinates it then dies inside the fig. But fear not – the fig fruit produces an enzyme that breaks down the body of the wasp completely, so you are not consuming a dead wasp when chomping down on a fig!

Why We Should Be Protection Wasps As Well As Bees

How You Can Help

The first step to helping in the conservation in wasps is to not get rid of them! In general, wasps will not harm you if you do not threaten them. They may land on your skin, however this will be likely to inspect a smell – wasps have a sense a smell that trumps that of a dog. If you stay calm, the wasp will fly off with no bother.

If you find an active nest on the outside of your house, your best bet is to wait for the queen to vacate then fill the nest with soil to prevent it being taken over by another queen.

You can also help conserve the wasp population by decreasing your pesticide and insecticide use. Wasps shouldn’t be considered pests – they are in themselves a form of pest control, so by killing wasps of, you are going to end up with a lot more pests.

Overall, wasps play an important role in our ecosystem and should be considered alongside bees as from a conservation point of view.

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Gardening, Grow Your Own, Megan

Garlic. It’s one of the most important ingredients in cooking. In the same family as onions and shallots, garlic is bursting with a bold savoury flavour, making it a staple in many of the world’s cuisines. It is one of those ingredients many people always have in their cupboards. But what about their gardens?

You can grow dozens of garlic bulbs from single cloves, giving a great return rate. Growing garlic is very simple, and autumn is the perfect time to start planting cloves. To find out more about growing garlic in your garden, so you never run low on this essential ingredient, read on!

Growing Garlic - Garlic Bulbs

Garlic Varieties

With an abundance of garlic varieties available, it can be hard to know which one to choose. Whilst softneck varieties are the most common type found in supermarkets, they are best suited to the milder climate of the south due to hardiness. Hardneck varieties are hardier, more suited to the climate and can be grown all over the UK.

  • Chesnok White – with purple striping bulbs, this hardneck variety has a strong flavour which makes it great for garlic bread
  • Bianco Veneto – a softneck variety that thrives in colder conditions and stores well
  • Early Purple Wight – bred on the Isle of Wight, the purple-tinged bulbs of this softneck variety are best used within three months
  • Iberian Wight – originating from Spain, Iberian Wight is a softneck variety which produces large cloves
  • Solent Wight – also bred on the Isle of Wight, this softneck variety is particularly suited to the UK climate and is an overall winner in terms of taste and lifespan. Its large bulbs are easily plaited.
Growing Garlic - Garlic Bread
Garlic Bread

Planting

As mentioned previously, garlic is best planted in autumn to late winter when the temperature is cooler. Planting depends widely on climate. In milder southern regions, cloves can be planted directly into the ground and protected with cloches. If you live a colder part of the country, plant cloves in seed trays ready to set out into the ground in early springtime.

Planting garlic is pretty simple. Each clove will produce a plant. Preferably, buy your chosen variety from a garden supplier rather than the supermarket, as these will be especially bred for the local climate. Break the garlic bulb up into cloves, being careful not to damage them.

If planting directly into the ground, after preparing your soil, simply push the cloves into the soil at 10cm intervals. Make sure the tip of each clove is left exposed.

In colder areas, fill a seed tray with multi-purpose compost and plant one clove in each space. Water and place in a cold frame; the garlic plants should be ready to be planted in the ground from march onward.

Growing Garlic - Garlic Cloves

Maintenance

Growing garlic is relatively low maintenance, so you will not have to be tending to you garlic for hours each day, you will be pleased to hear. Just ensure you weed between the plants so that the garlic plants have enough space and there is less competition for water. If your garlic plants begin to flower, remove them as soon as possible, but do not throw away! These flower stalks are great in salads and stir fries. If the flowers are left, the garlic will produce a smaller yield.

To ensure the juiciest bulbs, check to see if the soil is dry every couple of weeks, and water sparingly if there is a dryer period.

Growing Garlic - Garlic Flower
Garlic Flowers

Harvesting

Garlic is ready to be harvested in early summer. The telltale sign is when the leaves of the garlic plant turn yellow and begin to wither. To extract the bulbs from the ground, take a trowel and loosen them taking care not to cut them; this reduce the length of time they will store for. If the bulbs are left too long, they will re-sprout or start to rot in the ground so make sure to harvest them opportunely.

Growing Garlic - Trowel

Storage

Lay the garlic bulbs out in a warm place until they are dry. Garlic can be stored by plaiting the bulbs together and storing in the kitchen. Alternatively, keep garlic in a bowl containing holes to ensure the bulbs are able to ‘breath’. Do not make the mistake of storing garlic in the fridge – it causes bulbs to go off faster. Garlic stores best at room temperature.

Growing Garlic - Garlic Bulbs

Overall, growing garlic is easy, low maintenance and hassle free. Plus, you’ll never be low on garlic again!

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Flowers, Gardening, Megan

With many of us undertaking the daily grind, we are often unable to enjoy our gardens during the daytime unless it is the weekend. So why not plan your garden around the time you get to spend in it? There are a number of aspects of a moon garden that will allow you to enjoy it in the dim light of the evening and throughout the night if the moon is out. A moon garden’s purpose is to make the most of the natural light, in addition to flooding your senses with bright white blooms and relaxing aromas.

Moon Gardens

Fragrance

Sight is not the only sense that can be ignited in the garden – choosing fragrant flowers with strong scents will help you connect with nature in more than just a visual way. What’s more is you can enjoy fragrant blooms even when the moon is stuck behind the clouds and your garden lacks the light to be enjoyed with your eyes.

Some of our favourite more fragrant blooms are as follows:

Moon Gardens

Of course a lot of the time plants with fragrant foliage are forgotten about, but they definitely have a place in your moon garden:

  • Myrtle – an evergreen shrub with a fresh, clear scent to its foliage
  • Rosemary – the well known herb, that is popular with bees, has a woody & pungent aroma
  • Eucalyptus – an evergreen tree with a minty, pine scent

Moon Gardens

Night Bloomers

Night bloomers are flowers that bloom best at night. Although many do still give out aroma during the day, if you venture into your garden after dark these flowers will let out an even more pungent aroma that will be sure to delight you. Here are some examples:

  • Evening Primrose – this sweet-smelling perennial will also give your garden a splash of bright yellow colour
  • Moonflower – the white flowers of moonflower only open at night and have a crisp, clean scent
  • Japanese Wisteria – a vigorous woody climber, wisteria has a beautiful lilac colour and a sweet, pleasant aroma

Moon Gardens

White Blooms

White is the colour that shows up best at night, so when planning a moon garden you might want to mostly consider white flowers. An abundance of white is best and will be optimum for showing up in the darkness or under moonlight.

Here are some of our top picks for white flowers:

  • Lilac
  • Sweet Autumn Clematis
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Iceberg Rose

Moon Gardens

Daytime is not the only time you can enjoy your garden. Creating a moon garden will encourage you to make the most of the outside when you have the time to.

Container Gardening, Garden Design, Gardening, How To, Megan

Balcony Gardening

With a rapidly increasing population especially in urban areas, many people now live in high rise flats with no garden. Fear not! Just because you are limited to a balcony, doesn’t mean you can’t have your very own green outdoor space. We’ve put together some balcony gardening tips for those who love the outdoors but lack a large back garden.

Assessing Your Environment

Balcony Gardening

Before you get started buying plants, have a think about what you want your balcony garden to look like and how you would like it to function. Here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there an outdoor tap? If not, think about how many plants you’re happy to manage by using a watering can – how many trips can you make in and out your flat?
  • How much weight can your balcony hold? This is very important due to safety. The weakest point of your balcony tends to be the centre, so it’s a good idea to keep heavier planters around the edges.
  • How much sunlight and wind does your balcony get? It is important to work within the conditions you’re given as well as make the most of them. If it’s windy, create a windbreak. If it’s very sunny, bring in some shade. Choose plants that will suit the environment.

Start Simple

With balcony gardening, it is best to start small and build your way up, especially if you are new to gardening. If you start with too many plants it can get overwhelming, and of course the key to keeping any garden looking its best is regular love. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Starting with a few smaller, easy to care for plants and adding a few decorative items will be a lot more manageable and you’ll be able to build your confidence and add more plants later on.

Keep It Contained

Obviously with only a balcony, you will be planting in containers. We have a full post on container gardening which you can check out here, but if you just want the fundamentals, we’ve summarised them for you below.

Planters

Balcony Gardening

There are loads of different planters on the market and you are sure to find one to suit your individual style and needs. Be sure to pick one that is big enough to allow expansion of your plants’ roots. It is also important to ensure your plant has adequate drainage; you can do this by making sure your planter has a hole in the bottom and create a layer of large stones underneath the compost.

With the limiting amount of space that comes with balcony gardening, it is a good idea to consider vertical planters. These will help you make the most out of the space you have. A variety of vertical planters are available, from wall planters you can fix on the outside of your flat or railings, to shelving with multiple levels for you to place plant pots.

For more on plant pots, check out our complete guide to plant pot sizes.

Plants

Balcony Gardening

Just because you are limited to planting in containers with balcony gardening, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to grow a diverse range of colourful and attractive plants. Depending on your colour scheme and how much time you want to put into your balcony garden, there are a number of plants that will flourish in containers.

These include:

  • Annuals such as petunia, sweet peas and pansies
  • Perennials such as lavender, lilies and magnolias
  • Succulents
  • Topiary
  • Grasses

Make It Beautiful

Balcony Gardening

Your small space shouldn’t limit you in terms of garden design. Have a think about what colour scheme and materials you want in your balcony garden. It is best to stick to three colours, including green to ensure your space doesn’t seem to busy and is relaxing on the eyes.

As mentioned previously, when thinking about what materials to use be sure to consider the weight of your planters. Although materials such as concrete have started to find their place in the garden design world, it may not be suitable for balconies due to its heavy weight. Even the traditional terracotta is considered quite a heavy material. It is better to stick to lightweight materials such as wood, fibreglass and even recycled rubber.

Of course your balcony garden does not have to be limited to just plants in containers. You can decorate with other items, such as outdoor rugs, solar lights and other decorative features such as garden clocks.

We hope this post has enthused you about starting your very own balcony garden!

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.

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