when good flowere turn bad 2

Making sure the flowers you grow don’t harm bees

Many common garden sprays, and pyrethrum before it has dried, can be harmful to bees. Some systemic pesticides and fungicides are even being directly linked to colony collapse.

All labels on gardening products do tell you if they are safe for bees or not and warn not to spray when bees are about. Some of these products are systemic pesticides and fungicides which means their active ingredient remains in the plant tissue well after the spray has been applied. Traces of these residual chemicals remain in the plant and the nectar and pollen it produces. When bees and other pollinators gather the nectar and pollen from these poisoned plants they are exposed. This exposure can result in paralysis and even death of the bee. The death of bees is collateral damage of these applications.

The systemic insecticide family called Neonicotinoid is designed to effect the central nervous system of insects causing paralysis before death. It is the most widely used insecticide in the world and has been directly linked to colony collapse disorder. Germany, France, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the State of Oregon in the USA have banned or restricted its use but here in New Zealand its use is prevalent and alarming since bee numbers are in serious decline.

Neonicotinoid in sprays and coated onto seeds are toxic to bees in very low concentrations. It doesn’t make sense to use chemicals which kill bees when there are so many effective chemical free alternatives to deal with the grubs, aphids and other insects.

A pollen hotel can be a great food source for a bee, but when a flower has residual systemic chemicals within it, it becomes a bee death trap.

Read this recent article for more in-depth discussion on Neonicotinoids.

We will be doing more posts on products that are detrimental to bees and alternatives that are bee friendly.

Also check out the post on What seeds are safe for bees?

makethepaark- a pollen hotel you can eat

A Pollen Hotel you can eat

Vegetables fruits and herbs all produce flowers with pollen and nectar that will help you create amazing pollen hotels.  Some produce more than others.  Some of the best producers are stone and pip fruit like citrus and plums.  Berries are good too, and strawberries are so easy to grow in a small space.  From the vegetable family you can rely on beans, tomatoes, aubergines, capsicums, chillies, melons, courgettes, pumpkins, cucumbers, peas and jerusalem artichokes. If you allow sliver beet, spinach, broccoli, fennel, celery, parsley, artichokes, onions, and leeks to go to seed they will become an entire pollen hotel all on their own producing an abundant amount of food for bees before turning into seed you can use next season. Herbs that produce food for bees include thyme, rosemary, mint, lemon balm, oregano, chamomile and sage. Great flowering companion plants you can eat include calendular, sunflowers, borage.  If you only have a tiny space we recommend planting thyme, rosemary, oregano you will be amazed at how much pollen these small plants provide bees.

Monarch butterfly

A Pollen Hotel for a bee may also feed butterflies

Pollen Hotels we collectively build to make The Park, that will feed the bees located in Victoria Park, may also be providing a much needed food source for other pollinators including butterflies.

The Monach Butterfly New Zealand Trust have a list of plants that provide food for butterflies up on their website.  So if you want to attract butterflies to your Pollen Hotel consider using some of the following plants.

Calendula, Alyssum, Bottlebrush, Candytuft, Cape Marigold, Chrysanthemum, Cineraria, Cleome, Cockscomb, Sweet William, Gaillardia, Hebes, Kaikorua Rock Daisy, Mexican Sunflower, Osteospermum, Echium, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Salvia, Snapdragon, Valerian, Verbena, Wallflower, Zinnia.

The MBNZT runs courses on how to develop butterfly habitats. The next one they are doing is in June. Think about doing it to learn how to make a Pollen Hotel. Then post a photo of your new Pollen Hotel on the map at makethepark.info and help make The Park.

Pasture painting and water colour 1

Pasture Paintings – a form of pollen hotel

Over the past couple of weeks you may have noticed patches of dead (brown) grass in geometric shapes; circles, triangles, and lines on road-side berms across the Waitemata. These shapes are being seeded in pasture plants that will grow over the coming months and provide food for the bees in Victoria Park. A form of pollen hotel, these Pasture Paintings have been designed and implemented by Auckland based artists Taarati Taiaroa, Sarah Smuts Kennedy and Richard Orjis.

The design of the pasture paintings have been developed in pairs. The image in this post shows the Curran Street site (left) and St Marks Road site (right). The watercolour (middle) is our preliminary design of the relationship of form between the two sites which are at opposite ends of the Waitemata area.

The lines of the Pasture Painting #1 at the Curran Street site (alongside the harbour bridge and the Northern Motorway) follow the true northern and western axes, and the Pasture Painting #2 on St Marks Road (alongside the Southern Motorway in Newmarket) follow the true southern and eastern axes. While, separately these shapes suggest an arrow head pointing back to the centre of The Park (the beehives) both forms reflect each other across space. Situated on the edges of the Waitemata area these axis forms reference a compass drawn in the corner of a map.

We will be posting the process and progress of all six Pasture Paintings as they grow over the following months.


Not all seeds are safe for bees

Seeds that are artificially coloured; white, pink, red, blue and green, may be coated in chemicals that are harmful to bees. Seeds with a blue coating may be treated with copper which is considered “organic”, however,  they are still avoided by biological farmers who believe them to be detrimental to the biological engine beneath the soil that generates long term fertility as as little as 3ppm of copper can be toxic to soil fungi.

It has been determined by a vast number of international non industry research studies that chemicals from the Neonicotinoid insecticide family and some fungicides that are coated on seeds are contributing to colony collapse.

Neonicotinoids are systemic chemicals meaning they move throughout the plants entire system, from the coating on the seed, including the nectar, at levels which are toxic to bees as with most insects. The chemical manufacturer advises that these chemicals should never be used on plants that may be visited by bees, but that doesn’t seem to have been applied when using them to coat your seeds.

It is very hard to tell which treated seeds do or do not have neonicotinoid insecticide or harmful fungicides on them. The chemical combinations are so varied that even experts struggle to keep abreast of what combination is what. In addition, here in New Zealand there is little public knowledge about the issues around the use of these chemical treatments and the side-effects these could have on our agricultural, horticultural industries and pollinating systems in the short and long term.  New Zealand labeling laws are inadequate and many packets of seeds have little or no information about what their seeds are treated with.

It is likely that the products called Poncho and Gaucho that are produced by Bayer are being used in New Zealand to treat seeds. These include imidacloprid, which is one of the most common neonictenoids used. A seed supplier we talked to said they had noticed an increase in the use of treated seeds by well over 60 % in the last three years. This suggests treated seeds and plants grown from these seeds are now widely spread throughout the country.

So to be sure you are not planting a seed that is going to harm a bee once it has grown into a flower try to use organic seeds which will have been grown and harvested in a way that means they will be good healthy seeds in the first place, and make sure you ask for untreated seed or seed treated with Trichoderma which are beneficial fungi that help protect and feed the seed.

Of these 3 different seeds in our picture one of them is treated. Most untreated seeds look natural and have a varied surface. By placing a focus on using good healthy seed stock and creating healthy living soil you can eliminate the need for chemical support in the first place. Both industry and non industry research shows chemical applications may stop particular bugs or fungi attacking a plant, but they always compromise the overall health of the plant and the quality of the produce it grows.

Many countries overseas are banning these detrimental products as the plight of the bee becomes a serious concern.

Read this article for more information on the general state of play here in New Zealand.

Click to download Pdf safety data sheets for:
— Poncho
— Gaucho

Check out the posts on the processes and products we are using to help our seeds in our Pasture Paintings get the best start by building robust biology.

hexagonal preparation 1

Preparing ground to welcome our six bench beehives

The Western side of Victoria Park will become base camp for the six bench beehives that are the central focus of the public sculpture The Park. We are creating a Pasture Painting in the shape of a Hexagonal over which these six hives will be placed. We are lucky as the ground under this hexagonal form is topsoil that was recently placed here as part of the tunnel development. Our preparation for this Pasture Painting includes getting our chemical free weed control partners Biothermal to hot water spray the space inside the hexagonal. This process uses water at a consistent temperature of 98 degrees to instantly kill the plants cells in the same way that a intensive burn effects our skin. This has a sweet smell a bit like boiling spinach. The sun assists with the dehydration process that follows which transforms the green space into a brown space within hours. Microbiology within cm of the surface is effected but there is no residual chemicals left in the space at all and no flight bound creatures need worry about any chemical particles which will harm them. We will inoculate this space with microbiology as we scatter seeds using Nutri-Life Network-AMF with Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi and Trichoderma from Franko Solutions in Silverdale. We will also use BioHome Garden a microbiological liquid concentrate supplied by Bio Organic Solutions Ltd several times in the first couple of weeks to help support our seedlings.

winter flower 5

New Zealand native plants that produce food for bees

The ti kouka (cabbage tree), harakeke (flax), kanuka, manuka, hebe , karo, pohutukawa, rewarewa, kaihua (NZ jasmine), puawhananga (NZ Clematis), kumarahou, kohuhu and wharangi are all good food sources for bees. However most of these plants tend to produce an abundance of food for bees for only a small period of the year.  It is useful to think about other plants you can introduce into these environments that will produce nectar in these intervals so that bees can source nectar all year round.  Many bee-keepers resort to feeding their hives sugar to deal with these barren periods. It is of course better if bees can get their food supply in natural ways to remain as healthy as possible.

makethepark-red clover

Some of our favourite pasture plants

As well as producing food for bees and other insects these pasture plants help the soil become a fertile and drought resistant space. The more complex a green space is the more biodiversity it can support, the more minerals it produces, the more water it holds and the more dynamic it is. So plant as many varieties as you can.

Clover- fixes nitrogen, and produces food for bees. Lupins- fixes nitrogen and produces food for bees. Chicory- has roots that mine deep down into the ground for minerals and produces food for bees. Mustard- fixes nitrogen, gets rid of wireworm which eat potatoes and produces food for bees. Lucerne-fixes nitrogen and produces food for bees. Forage Peas -fixes nitrogen and produces food for bees. Vetch -fixes nitrogen and produces food for bees. Phacelia- produces food for bees.

full moon

Creating our Pasture Paintings by the moon

The Pasture Paintings for The Park are being created following the moon cycles.

The ascending and descending moon cycle refers to the moon moving on an axis that makes it appear as if it is getting higher and lower in the sky over a 27 day cycle.

The waxing and waning moon cycle involves the moon appearing fuller to us here on earth (as in the full moon) and then looking as if it has disappeared (which we call a new moon).  

The ascending and descending moon cycle effects the gravitational pull of water here on earth. As plants are almost 90% water these gravitational shifts really effect them.

On an ascending moon, the moon draws away from the earth and seems to move upwards into the sky. This creates a levitational tow on sap in the plant and makes it flow more strongly upwards.

The ascending moon effects tasks in the garden like:

Pruning trees- cutting a branch when its sap is rising means the tree is more likely to weep. It is best to avoid pruning trees on an ascending moon.

Propagation of all plants that produce things above ground- Fruit (tomatoes, plums, strawberries) Flowers and Leaf plants (leeks, spinach, parsley). The levitational pull amplifies the seed’s will to push out of its shell and up into the the world.

On a descending moon the moon draws again back towards the earth, and seems to get lower in the sky. Its effect is a more gravitational tow on the sap in the plant, drawing it down into the earth.

The descending moon effects tasks in the garden like:

Transplanting – when plants need to focus on settling their roots into the new ground.

Digging over garden beds – To make sure you lose the least amount moisture from the ground as you open up your garden bed.

48 hours before a full moon is a good time to sow seeds as well as a good time to do your organic pest control for bugs. There is always more moisture in the air around the full moon.

Some cultures refer to the new moon as a no moon suggesting that it is a good time to have rest day and do nothing in the garden at this time.