Thursday, May 5, 2016

The buzz of the bumblebee...

May came and with it came the sun and warm spring weather!
Oh, the joy!
And with that the first swallows too. I really do like those birds; their agility, their aerobatics..... and later on in summer their calls, when they soar through the skies with their buddies, chasing flies and outmaneuvering each other.
The daffodils bloom, the grass is growing (I'll be cursing it in a week or so) and the trees are shrouded in a fresh green veil. The seeds in the greenhouse are sprouting nicely and the first seeds have been sown directly on the ground too. One bed is dedicated mostly to onions; 3 species with alternating rows of carrots, parsnip, radish and kamomil in between. I also planted several rows of small bulbs, just to be able to compare later on. Whenever there turns out to be rooms left I will plant or sow something compatible there too. The potatoes went in the ground as well, but I had to plant the majority of them in a bed I had fertilised last year, so I have to see what will happen there. We bought a small box with 3 species; Rocket, Arrow and Mandel and when following the advised planting distances these turned out to be more than 1 large planting bed can take. So I had to plant half of the Mandel in an unprepared and unfertilised bed. A nice way to try out and compare them later on this year.
The garlic I got from Hugh of last year is going very well and I have sown some spinach around and in between it.
So far I also planted 5 krikon (ramson) offshoots and there are 2 elderberry bushes waiting to put down their roots into our garden. We bought those, whilst attending a guided tour through one of the local plant nurseries. It was quite nice, but we had hoped on more background information on how they grow their plants. We were not particularly interested in promotion tales on several decorative plants. They actually have very little in terms of edible plants and they seem to specialise on pelargonium, lobelia, petunia and fuchsia, which they sow and grow themselves. The owner quite clearly had a passion for those and for his profession. A stack of syngenta plant labels however triggered an immediate red-flag-respons...... On the other hand it is the same nursery we bought our cherry- and plum trees last year and we are quite happy with those. They deliver quality goods, plain and simple.

Animal life has returned to the garden too. A garden thrives whenever there is wildlife around.
We are lucky that we have a lot of it; woodpeckers, dozens of birds, several species of bumblebee, loads of butterflies etc. There is also a good deal of not always equally welcome wildlife to be found; hare and deer do not mix well with a vegetable garden, at least not from a gardener's point of view. The animals probably disagree. A fox as an immediate neighbour (within 75 meters) makes having a chicken coop a challenge. Not to mention the martens and ermine that roam the area. And then there brother badger too.
And we have several forest ant highways through the garden. One directly across the front lawn and I am not too happy about that. We have tried several environmentally friendly remedies, but to no avail. I really do not want to go the chemical way, since there'll be bunnies there too in a few weeks/months. So I guess we'll have to live with them for now.
Watching a bluetit snatching a lemon butterfly in mid air, fly to the nearest pine tree where its mate was waiting and handing over the butterfly, after which the mate disappeared into a cluster of needles and twigs is quite a sight.
There are a lot of "blue stars" or blåstjärna (scilla) blooming in the garden right now. We never had this many. And they are very popular with bumblebees, of which, as said, several species are buzzing about. Rex is not too fond of them, especially the big black/yellow/white ones. He backs off, whenever there's one buzzing around his nose.
And those bumblebees were the key to some exciting discoveries!
On kristi himmelfärds (ascension day) I was cutting firewood and my youngest daughter was playing outside. She started telling me that she was scared of bees. I told her there was no reason to be and that I'd show her when they'd arrive. Then the conversation went to bumblebees and their stings and that there were so many of them in our garden, so I put down the saw and we went to look at them up close. I showed her that you could actually touch them and that they'd just move on. Our oldest daughter joined us and I asked her to get the poster I have of bumblebee species, because I saw several different ones in one place. And while I was waiting for her, a surprise showed up; a honeybee!! The first one I've seen since we moved here!! I was quite excited to see her. And since there are no beekeepers around or none that I know of, I assume that this is a "wild" bee, which means they might swarm. I am going to get my Warré hives ready to act as a swarm catcher.... just in case.
Oh... we identified 5 different species of bumblebee.


  1. Good reading as allways Ron.
    Looking forward to see how the Mandel is turning out. Its kind of the Norwegian National Potato:-D
    Read a tip a while a go regarding scaring of roe deer. Appaently they dont lige the smell of wild sheep, so puting small balls of unprocessed wild sheep wool around the garden is an effective roe deer repelent... But I have no ecxperience with it my self,

    1. There are 2 bags of freshly cut sheepwool standing by in the greenhouse right now.
      Snails do not like it either.

  2. I got my soil analysis back from that place in Ohio that Hewitt recommended. (Logan) I can't understand all of it but basically it seems my soil is good pH (6.4) and has adequate most everything but maybe low on organic material (2.5%) and calcium (desired value 2464; my value 2080). Do you have any opinion of this? I am saving back all my horse manure and composting it with alfalfa leavings.

    1. You are asking me? An absolute beginner myself? You must be desperate! ;)
      Your horse manure is too powerful to use just like that. It has to decay for a while in order for all the aggressive components, like ammonia, to break down. You would burn and kill the plants, literally.
      Add plant matter to the manure, especially woody ones to obtain a nutricional ballance. Fresh green plant matter, like grass clippings (if you can get that) can be spread out over the land directly. I d this to weeds too, preferably exposing their roots to the sun, so they dry and die.
      Higher calciumlevels can be obtained by spreading calcium over the land. You can get that in the form of eggshells. Ground down snail- and seashells are good too. You can buy that if necessary.

      Ask your neighbours if they have leftovers. Feed your land over summer, leave it over winter and next year continue feeding it when you use it. Mamma nature will do the rest.

    2. Honestly I don't know any gardeners! You and Corina and Ben are the only ones. (Ben is too busy to resppond to my emails) People don't garden. They are too busy. Around here is Big Ag. I'm trying to make the acquaintance of a local person but so far I have not met one. Maybe I need to join a gardening club. I will look into a government program they call Master Gardeners. Hopefully they will not be chemical promoters. I am looking into buckwheat (Corina recommended it, too) as a cover crop. What little research I did told me that it does well here. You seed it into moist soil and then you only have to water it one more time. It's East African. I've known big alfalfa farmers from when we lived in Tracy that rotated it in. They called it Black Eyed Beans. Yesterday when we went to get a taco I noticed that city gardeners left a large container of grass clipping from their mowing. If I had anything to put them into I would have asked for them so now I'm going to put 2 heavy duty trash bags in my car in case we run into that again. I'm putting leftover alfalfa leaves into the horse manure compost pile. That should add nitrogen, yes? We have a tractor now. In a week we will go to auction and try to get a reasonably priced disk. We're making progress even though it is slow.