Professional Gardener - Bees, broad beans and blackcurrants

It's time to introduce bumblebees and to get lawns and kitchen gardens under control, says Sally Drury.

Bees

There has been a 15 per cent decline in bumblebee numbers over the past two years and a staggering 70 per cent decline over the past 30 years. Yet they are vital if you are to be rewarded with the fruits of your labour. The planting of bee-friendly plants is common in gardens, but have you considered introducing bees?

Beepol is a range of new products from Sherriff Amenity that simplifies the introduction of bees into appropriate sites. The Beepol Hive is a live colony of UK-native Bumblebees, housed and supplied in a maintenance-free hive. Each hive has a queen bee, 30 to 40 workers and bee food. The bumblebees are a native UK species, reared in disease-free, hygienic conditions, and are released by an easy-to-use trapdoor system. A clear viewing panel in the lid allows for observation of the colony.

The Beepol Lodge is also available. Made in the UK from durable timber grown on Forest Stewardship Council plantations, the Beepol Lodge is based on traditional beehive designs and contains one Beepol garden hive. The lodge has a hinged panel for access and for viewing the colony. Exit and entrances created for the size and shape of bumblebees and a landing ledge are also provided.

Two facts to remember about bumblebees: firstly, they do not swarm; secondly, they do not continue through the winter in the same way as honey bees so it will be necessary to purchase a new hive each spring.

Easter holidays

Only three weeks to go. Double check rotas and confirm again with staff.

Lawns

In the south, consider reducing the height of cut. For fine ornamental lawns, lower the mowing height to 10mm or 8mm. Amenity lawns should be cut to between 15mm and 12mm. General amenity areas can be left at 25mm. Consider whether any areas could be left at a longer height and mown less frequently. Overseed bare patches.

Pests and diseases

Prepare for a rise in slug and snail populations, ensuring you have controls to hand.

Kitchen garden

Tomatoes, celery and celeriac can be sown indoors for planting out in June. Make successional sowings of lettuce, radish, beetroot, peas, broad beans, salad onion and kohlrabi outdoors.

Dwarf French beans can be started under cloches and leeks in a nursery bed. Plant asparagus crowns. Inspect early potatoes regularly and protect as necessary.

Maincrop potatoes and onions will also need planting this month. Thin existing crops as necessary and keep a watch for any pests and diseases.

A nitrogen feed will be appreciated by blackcurrants and blackberries. Watch for mildew on all fruit bushes. Fan-trained cherries and plums should be pruned. Tie in vine shoots.

Greenhouses and conservatories

Train and top dress early cucumbers. Train and pollinate melons. Remain alert to cold night-time temperatures.

Trees, shrubs and borders

Some fragrances should be noticeable in springtime and the balance of aromas should be assessed for future planting decisions. Hardy fuchsias, Cornus and Salix are among the plants that can be pruned.


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