Bumble Bees, Bonfire and Beans

01 May 2011 | Posted in Gardening by The Marshalls Family

Well, I certainly picked the right week to take-off on holiday! Despite my best intentions, I didn’t spend as much time on the plot as I would have wanted. Because it was half term, picnics, pub lunches and family activities were high on the list of priorities – it’s a hard life!

I did go up most days to water and potter about for an hour or so. I was rewarded with a big bag of purple sprouting from David who was gleefully trying out our new harvest knife. I was also delighted to hear of the birth of baby Lilly from a very proud dad, Paul who owns a house backing onto my plot (he often supplies tea and biscuits at just the right time of day).

Saturday 23rd was the first cricket match of the season for our village; I was roped in to making the teas so spent most of Good Friday and all of Saturday morning baking cakes and making sandwiches. It was a good game and we won, helped in some part to a rather comical catch from me - I juggled the ball 3 times before finally clinging on.

I resolved to spend all of Easter Monday on the plot, where watering, rubbish clearing and bonfire lighting was the order of the day.

The first task was to carry on clearing out the old compost heap, extracting the bindweed roots and reusing the soil. After about an hour, I suddenly became aware of a large number of small bumble bee’s flitting about looking lost and to my horror realized that I had disturbed a nest.

What I though was a small ball of plant fibre and shredded plastic actually turned out to be a lose nest of little bumble bees. Aside from spiders, bumble bees are my favourite insect (yes, I know that spiders aren’t strictly insects) and I was mortified. I managed to earth up some soil around the nest to give it some protection and immediately stopped digging.

When I got home I tried to identify the species – they were very small and had one yellow band on their bottom. I found an excellent site:   http://www.bumblebeeconservation.org.uk/ but I’m not sure if any of these were the ones I disturbed. Perhaps I’ve discovered a brand new species? I will take my camera back next week and try and get some pictures…

I finally decided to light my fire. There was a strong wind to disperse the smoke and after carefully checking I could see no washing hanging out. I lit the fire in a rusted old brazier that had been left on my plot and because most of the wood was old and dry there was very little smoke anyway.  In my opinion, there aren’t many things more satisfying than emptying a bucket of bindweed roots onto a lit bonfire!

Bonfires can be very contentious to some people and too be honest I wasn’t exactly sure of my rights or the local by-laws. It saddens me that people can get so upset about bonfires but are more than happy to sit in a garden full with smoke from their BBQ’s!

Again, I’ve found a useful site: http://www.direct.gov.uk/ and it appears that common sense is the main requirement when lighting a fire!

Before I left for the evening I banked up earth around the sides of the brazier and put a fair amount of soil on top of the glowing coals. Better to be safe than sorry!

I make no apologies for being a bit of a novice and make plenty of mistakes as a result. I was rather put-out to discover that all the beans I had sown (Cobra and Golddukat) a couple of weeks ago in my Rootrainers had germinated, died and rotted in the cells. I think the problem was leaving the lid on,  the condensation build-up and hot weather must have combined to create a fetid atmosphere which killed them.

Never mind - I simply cleaned them all out and started again. Although it does illustrate how useful our young vegetable starter plants are, I’ve put in an order just in case I get a repeat performance! 


03 June 2011 - Gael, Wrote:

Slow worms also nest in compost heaps as well as bumble bees I make large compost heaps in wooden bays, I just keep adding in layers and don't; turn or use the heap in summer. They just take a little longer to rot down this way, but still make beautifu; compost ready to mulch with in the autumn

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