Welcome to the Week 45 edition of Five at 5.
This week I’m focusing on biodiversity in the garden – how to make your soil alive with micro-organisms by composting, growing flowers to attract beneficial insects to the garden, creating a wildlife friendly no-mow lawn patch, putting together a bug hotel and bee waterer, and a quick look at my zucchini which are doing superbly well!
Enjoy! And remember, feedback is always very much appreciated!
Click on link above to view YouTube video
1. Composting… and worm farms, bokashi systems, and effective micro-organisms
If you are into biodynamic gardening, organic gardening, or earth gardening, compost forms a very important part of your soil.
Soil teeming with life, full of the visible (worms) and invisible (micro-organisms), is often the best for our plants too – providing just the right macro- and micro-nutrients and making them bio-available to your fruits and flowers, and they also aerate the soil.
Creating home-made compost is an easy task, and getting something (black gold as gardeners are fond of calling good compost) out of old food scraps is really like doing magic!
There’s a lot written about composting, and I won’t go into too much detail here, except for saying that you must ensure that you create the correct ratio in your bin – simply throwing in grass clippings, or prunings from your plants, and a bit of vegetable scraps from the kitchen is not going to be good enough. A thriving compost system needs a lot of carbon too – add old newspapers, cardboard boxes, or other carbon-rich materials that can decompose in your bin. In actual fact, you are going to use a lot more carbon, 25 parts for every 1 part of nitrogen (the green things like grass clippings and food scraps). Together they should break down through the help of aerobic microorganisms in the air and soil and of course all kids of critters like earthworms, earwigs, millipedes and even ants and slugs into rich and friable compost.
Bokashi is another system I use at home and is basically a way to ferment food scraps by harnessing anaerobic organisms. A few things can go into your bokashi bin which can’t go straight into your compost (like bones and cheese etc), which makes it a lovely addition to the home composting endeavor. You can dig your bokashi scraps directly into the garden in trenches, and plant on top, or you can, as I’m fond of doing, add it as a layer into your compost – it actually helps to decompose the compost much faster!
I’ve never had a worm farm, but it is something that I may want to add to my home composting system. I have found that I have an incredible number of common garden earthworms doing their thing in my normal compost bin, so I’ve not felt the need to create a wormery as such… maybe soon though, just for the fun of it.
Something else I might delve into a bit later in the year, or perhaps leave for a newsletter is the idea around hot sheet composting.
2. Companion planting
I’ve written about companion planting before, something that I always take into consideration when planting my garden. Here though, I am particularly focusing on creating a flower garden for the sole use of bringing pollinators and other pest-eating insects to my garden. And of course, for their beautiful display of flowers.
A lot of herb flowers, edible flowers, and cottage garden flowers are particularly well suited to creating a haven for beneficial insects. Attracting bees, bumblebees, ladybugs, and hover flies, as well as a host of other (unknown to me) insects that increases the biodiversity of my garden.
I have this year, surrounded my raised garden vegetable beds homemade planters full of flowers – I have lavenders, alyssum, hyssop, corn cockle, foxglove, borage, dahlia, catmint, lesser calamint, phacelia, calendula, viola, chamomile, and a whole myriad of other flowering plants. Not only does this look really pleasing in the garden, but I’m keen to see what difference it makes in pest control and pollination…. I already see so many more bees this year than last year! Exciting stuff!
Again it’s all about the bees, but this time, instead of specifically planting flowers for the bees, how about leaving a patch of lawn to go wild? I have found that my “Clover Corner – Bee Friendly Patch” of not-mown lawn has a lot of bee visitors, especially very early in springtime when weeds like dandelion, clovers, and lawn daisy are already full in flower while many other pretty garden flowers have not yet grown… This gives foraging bees a very much needed food source before the main season herbs and flowers come into their own.
Because I’m renting, and “doing the lawns” are part of the contract, I tried to cordon off an area of lawn that we are not mowing and put my fruit trees (in pots) all around it like a perimeter, and I put a sign on it too. This way it is quite obviously “something” rather than looking like just a patch we forgot to get to. Still… some people don’t find the wild looking patch pleasing, but I know I’m doing my bit to increase the survival of bees and other pollinators, and with some poppies and other wildflowers coming through the grass, looks a bit meadow-like.
4. Insect Hotel and Bee waterer
Creating a habitat for insects and other critters is another fun way to create biodiversity in the garden. Gone are the days of getting rid of every creepy-crawly in your garden – these days we are even providing them with bespoke accommodation!
The idea is that while they will get to your garden in some way or another anyway to do the things they must – pollinate, predate on pests, or fix the soil… it’s a much better deal for them and you to have them live in to do their jobs!
You can buy ready-insect hotels, but using recycled and salvaged bits from your own home is incredibly fun, and rewarding. I’ve gone foraging with my kids to find pine cones to put in, beach walks result in armful loads of driftwood and interesting rocks with hide-holes…
You can get as simple, or as elaborate as you want, making it look like a grand feature in your garden, or hide it somewhere out of sight.
Now, the bee waterer isn’t a new idea either, just a bit of commonsense practice. If you don’t have hives on your property, you may have realized that the bees travel far, very far (up to xxx km) to come around and pollinate your patch. Sometimes this route is not so friendly in the available water department, leading to some tired and dehydrated bees. Allowing a shallow dish of water to stay in your garden where thirsty insects can quench themselves is another great idea to make your garden as critter friendly and biodiverse as you possibly can.
I love zucchini, a.k.a. courgette or baby marrow – they are some of my favourite vegetables! And luckily they’re not too fussy to grow and produce really heavily throughout the season. Very versatile in the kitchen – from roasting, baking, boiling, spiralizing and making into zoodles (zucchini noodles) all the way to grating and baking with them!
To get the best out of your zucchini plant it in a full sun position in soil that is good and rich with plenty of compost. Although they tolerate some frost, they do better in warmer climates, and benefits from a fortnightly feed during the height of summer.
The plant can grow quite large – so make sure you give it about a 60cmx60cm space to grow unencumbered in.
The zucchini is an immature marrow, and should be picked before they get too big – not only do they taste better young, this practice also encourages more zucchini to grow! Take note of them though, as they sneak up on you with their size – you may think it still has a few days to go, but by evening it’s almost too big for harvest! Dont’ worry about missing a few though, bigger squash are lovely stuffed and baked too.
They grow well with some strong-scented herbs, like thyme, oregano, marjoram and French tarragon.
This year I’m growing quite a number of zucchini – the first to fruit is my favourite – Cocozelle, an Italian heritage striped one. Others I grow is Costata Romanesco, White Patty-pan, Rampicante, Golden, and Black Beauty.
To clarify – blossom end rot happens when a plant suffers calcium deficiency. Sometimes zucchini and other squash rot before the formation of the fruit, and this looks very much like blossom end rot, but is actually the result of the flower not being pollinated and it therefor will not be a viable source for the plant to produce seeds, and so rots off. Not blossom end rot, but looks pretty similar.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s walk through my garden. See you back next week for more Five at 5.
1. I do not run affiliate programs, if I mention a product or a nursery in my posts, it is without monetary or any other incentive from them to do so, and because I either believe in their product, or it was the only place to get what I needed.
2. I am proud to say that my daughter has edited all the video! Go PrincessDestinyJewel10!