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Ask the experts on April 5th

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Jo BBCT Conservation Officer South West - 05 April 2013 03:33 PM
cazery - 05 April 2013 02:51 PM

We want to plant up an area about 3x5m on our allotment (in a fenced off area between a greenhouse and our hens/ducks). Also in a side area about 25x1m, which used to be a path and is nettle filled.

The fenced off area had potatoes on it for a few years (to clear weeds), and looks nice and weed free now. Can I just go ahead and sow a meadow mix (and annual mix as we want things this year!), or is there more prep we should do first?

For the old path - are there meadow plants that I could use which would work with the nettles, as I would rather not get rid of them.

Also, we are in County Durham, but I can’t find any local wildflower seed suppliers. What would be the best kind of mix to get, or can you recommend a supplier?
If not how do I find out what local flowers there are that I could include in the plot?

Quite general questions I realise, but any help on any of them would be greatly appreciated!


Hello, I think it sounds as though the allotment bed is ready to go - you are aiming for a clean weed free, seed bed and you need a firm and fairly fine tilth.  So if is is still quite lumpy soil, stones etc I would give it a good dig over and rake.  Then sow the seeds ontop of the soil and gently tread in - remember not to bury them as they need light to germinate.  I sowed an annual wildflower mix on my allottment last year, which were cornfield species but also a little bit of borage and phacelia and it worked really well, the bumblebees loved it, maybe too much at the expense of them pollinating the runner beans ! Even though phacelia is a non native plant it is suitable to use in an urban setting.  If you are using an annual mix then most suppliers tend to include similar species - good ones for bumblebees are cornflower, poppy and corncockle.  Flora Locale has a list of suppliers on thier website so you might be able to find a local one there under ‘supplier directory’

http://www.floralocale.org/Homepage.

Good suppliers that will deliver include Emorsgate seeds and Habitat aid.

For the path, I’d be tempted to leave the nettles as they are if that is the habitat you want there. I think it might be quite tricky to get wildflowers to establish alongside them as the ground must be quite fertile. You might get something like comfrey to work as this is a big plant that will not be outcompeted by the nettles,  the bumblebees love it and also can use it to make fertliser for the allotment. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Hi cazery.  The Natural History Museum’s website (nhm.ac.uk)  has a great “Postcode Plants Database” that allows you to search for native plants recorded in your area, indicating which are considered “garden Worthy”, also shows any butterflies, birds and other fauna (not bees!) associated with the plants.

     
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Thanks Jo, That is all very useful!

I love the idea of mixing in some borage and phacelia.

I have the perfect comfrey plant too which has been threatening to overtake the gooseberry patch - I’ll move it into one of the more nettle-free parts of the path and let it enjoy itself.

Thoroughly looking forward to this year - we have just taken full possession of our plot, having shared it with a neighbour for four years, and I am finally able to develop the wild areas I’ve been craving (they used to dig them up thinking they were weed patches) and provide a little more habitat/food for bumblebees and other lovely creatures.

Many thanks for your clear and useful responses to my questions.

     
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Hi cazery.  The Natural History Museum’s website (nhm.ac.uk)  has a great “Postcode Plants Database” that allows you to search for native plants recorded in your area, indicating which are considered “garden Worthy”, also shows any butterflies, birds and other fauna (not bees!) associated with the plants.

Thank you! That sounds brilliantly useful, I’ll have a good look when I escape from work.

     
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Jo BBCT Conservation Officer South West - 05 April 2013 03:12 PM
Clive - 05 April 2013 02:42 PM

Hi Jo,

Good to meet you and to take part in this Forum session.
We have an unusual problem where I live-  but it maybe gives an opportunity to get some more BB flowers into our lawns and verges.

Let me explain ...
We live in a small 1930’s housing estate, in a small valley with mature beech woodland on the slopes around the houses. 
It ‘s on the edge of a large town in the Chilterns.
Badgers live in the woodland and visit our estate at night to find food.  (They have got MUCH more common locally in recent years.)

In the late spring each year we get an aerial overload of small green chafer beetles.  Thousands of them !
They land on our lawns to lay eggs in the grass and their larvae will later eat the roots of the grass.
So our lawns, which were grass and typical lawn flowers like Clover and Self Heal etc have slowly changed from grass to moss (with some residual grass). 
(The moss grows well because it is damp most winters, with the sun hiding behind the trees.)

Last autumn, and now again over recent weeks, badgers have been lifting the grass as though it is loose turf to get at the chafer grubs beneath.
And they leave it looking like a half-ploughed field, or a badly roughed-up piece of grass full of holes where they have dug out a grub.

Many of the house lawns gardens and verges on the estate have been attacked, with a significant area of ground involved.  So it is a real problem ... but could also be an opportunity !

Might you have any suggestion for BB-friendly flowering lawn-plants we could grow with deep roots that would survive chafer grubs nibbling, or even better, that would repel chafer grubs !
(And even better, that repel badgers !)

Or any other tips ?

Yours         Clive

PS.  I know that it is possible to get nematode treatments for chafer grub control, or systemic insecticide treatments probably Neonic type: but I don’t want to use or recommend Neonics; and Nematodes are probably going to be horribly expensive !

PPS   I could send a couple of pictures to show the type of damage if necessary.


Hi Clive, I have to say this is quite a tricky question and one I’d probably have to do a bit of research on to answer.  Plants such as birdsfoot trefoil, self heal, clover, buttercup and cowslip can all survive in lawns with more regular mowing and are all good for bees, but I don’t know if they would also survive the chafer grubs.  A few people have said to me about using electric fencing around the perimeter of their gardens to stop the badgers getting in which has worked, but this is obviously costly and time consuming. Can I have a think and get back you ?!  Thanks, Jo

Hi Jo,
Many thanks for your comments.
I’d been wondering about having an electric fence at the side of the house, to protect our back garden; but that wouldn’t be viable for people’s verges, so it is a knotty problem.
Last autumn we did try to re-seed about 10 square metres of badger-turned back lawn with White Clover (using a Green Manure variety), but the seedlings that came up appear to have been zapped by the cold weather over the winter !
We intend to try again though, because I think clover roots will be much deeper than grass roots, so should be more resilient to chafer grubs.
Any further thoughts you have will be much appreciated !
Clive