COME early summer, I usually take stock of my garden’s potential to attract bees, writes David Carnduff.
This year I took inspiration from Plantlife.org’s “No Mow May” campaign, which encouraged gardeners to leave mowers idle for a few weeks to see what bee-friendly wildflowers might pop up when lawns were left uncut.
To be honest, I left only a small corner of my sward to flourish and was “rewarded” with a multitude of daisies and dandelions.
I was encouraged, however, by the appearance of some cuckoo flowers, those pink, delicate blossoms that are a spring favourite of many.
I had read earlier that dandelions — often considered to be no more than an invasive weed — provided early food for bees, so I was happy to see the dazzling yellow splashes created by this undervalued flower.
However, maybe as a result of the unusually cold weather, bees seemed very scarce, which twinged my conscience and I wondered what I could do to help to bring the buzz back to my garden.
My enthusiasm was further boosted On World Bee Day — 20 May — and I visualised my dear green place as a vast wildflower meadow full of colour and life as armies of bees stocked up with nectar and pollen.
Reality kicked in when I read that wildflower meadows won’t spring up overnight and may take several seasons to become fully established. Some horticultural know-how is also an advantage if well-intentioned hard graft is to produce results.
Simply scattering seeds on established lawns won’t work as the wildflowers can’t compete with grass, so it’s best to remove the turf to expose the soil underneath. I grabbed a spade and removed a strip of turf about three metres long from a less prominent section tucked at the back of the garden.
I was going to take up more, but after a career mainly spent behind a desk, I had forgotten how challenging certain garden tasks can be on one’s ageing back.
Thankfully, the next step was much easier. I had bought “bee bombs”, cubes of soil and clay filled with wildflower seeds, which — according to the instructions — should be scattered over prepared ground, given a good watering and left to work their magic.
That task completed, I then scarified the “no mow” section to break up the surface and liberally sprinkled wild white clover seeds over the area, noting with some satisfaction that the packet said this variety had pinkish white flowers which are loved by bees. Time will tell if these tiny seeds will flourish to their full potential.
Meanwhile, in the wider countryside, flowers are already abundant as woods, fields and verges spring to life. On a walk along the coast a few days ago, I noted birdsfoot trefoil and thrift providing splashes of colour, while stitchwort added its own delicate charm on shaded hedge banks.
Another bonus is that we’ve not yet reached mid-summer, so look out for more floral gems emerging in the weeks ahead.