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.

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.

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.