Spring into the garden

weeping cherry blossom

The weeping cherry blossoms are abuzz with bees

It’s the fourth week of Spring and it’s finally safe to say that winter is now behind us. The bee hive is buzzing, there are flower buds opening everywhere around the garden and the goats are shedding their winter coats.

september- back vegetable garden

The back vegetable garden late September

Even though we’ve had plenty of rain in the last month, the increased temperatures heading into summer will mean the ground can quickly dry out. Now is the time to get your vegetable beds mulched using pea straw, straw, sugarcane mulch or if you can afford it, lucerne hay, which will also feed your vegetables as it breaks down.

september- potatoes

The potatoes which were planted mid August are growing strongly and have been hilled up with soil and then mulched with pea straw.

september- garlic

I don’t usually mulch the garlic, but the soil in this bed dries out quickly (thanks to our gum trees) so I’ve given them a light cover with pea straw.

september- brassicas

The brassica bed with Tuscan kale, Red Russian kale, broccoli and cauliflowers will hopefully mature before the Cabbage White butterflies emerge and lay their eggs on the leaves, so won’t need netting. 

I love the start of Spring when vegetables nursed through the Winter start to mature. We’ve been feasting on asparagus the last few weeks, both green and purple. If you haven’t grown asparagus before, have a go, the two year wait before harvesting is worth the many productive years that follow of the best tasting, freshest asparagus you’ll ever eat.

September- broadbeans

The broad beans are worth growing just for their flowers delightful scent and the leafy tips of the plants make a wonderful addition to a spring salad.

Broad beans and snow peas are starting to pod too and we’ve eaten the broccoli and cauliflowers with a succession planting maturing soon. There’s plenty of kale, silverbeet, spinach and red chard and the endive is ready to be lightly steamed and mashed with potatoes (it’s a Dutch thing-don’t knock it until you try it!)


Planted at the top of the driveway in a our best sunny spot, the oranges and grapefruit are thriving and we are juicing and eating citrus galore. Our citrus trees love the spent straw from the goats pen as a mulch.


The art of procrastination…aka, taking photos of bees


Most of us have busy lives these days and mine is no exception. As I work four days a week, the one weekday I’m home is usually crammed full of all the running around jobs that don’t get done on the weekend…paying bills, buying stuff needed for school projects, car servicing, housework (ugh!), however there is also gardening… walking the dog…watching the chickens and their antics…feeding the goats…observing the bees as they enter their hive…following an echidna as it waddles along our bush track…checking each snow pea seedling’s progress as it climbs up the trellis…yes, it’s easy to get distracted when there is so much life in the garden.


So it’s not surprising that with a long list of things to get done today, not only am I now writing this blog post when I should be vacuuming the house, but I’ve spend the last hour following the bees around my garden, as they feed on the Salvia flowers, trying to get a good photo. The job might not have taken so long if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m trying to capture a creature which has no appreciation of the meaning of procrastination and hence doesn’t stop moving for one second as I try to get a photo, that is even remotely in focus, on my HTC mobile phone. So apologies to all you photographers out there for the quality of my photos, a great photo of a bee definitely requires a better camera.


Nevertheless I thought I’d share these photos with you as for one, they took so long to take and secondly, it’s an opportunity to highlight the importance of having something flowering in your garden late autumn for the bees as they are heading into the cold months of winter.


For autumn flowers you can try growing some of the larger winter flowering varieties of Salvia. They are not only a hardy and low maintenance plant to grow, but are a great source of pollen and nectar for bees on sunny, late-autumn days such as today. Some of my favourite Salvias are Pineapple sage (S. elegans), Mexican sage (S. leucantha), Salvia dorisiana and Salvia ‘Costa Rican Blue’.


The battle of the bees

The battle of the bees

As if bees didn’t have enough challenges facing their survival… along comes the European wasp. Two years ago I lost a beehive from a wasp attack and this autumn the wasps are trying it again on another hive (see video above).

There is nothing more frustrating then when you check your beehive in the morning before leaving for work and there are numerous wasps at the entrance of the hive, knocking your bees to the ground, trying to decapitate them and flying off with bits and pieces of bee. It makes me feel like putting on my beekeeping suit and joining my bees to stand guard at the entrance, swatting any wasp that dares to come near. Unfortunately I must go to work to pay the bills…so what can you do to assist your bees from being attacked by wasps?

Well, after doing a bit of research and consulting some of the other beekeepers in my local beekeeping club, I’ve discovered a number of things that may help. Firstly reduce your hive entrance so that the bees have less space to defend (I’ve now reduced mine to about 5cm). Our weather is cooling down now in mid autumn, but if your hive is being attacked at the height of summer you will need to make sure there is still enough ventilation so the bees can cool the hive if needed. I’ve read some people use wire mesh to reduce the entrance, which still allows enough air flow on warm days.

Another thing is to make sure your hive is healthy and that there is a strong population of bees available to keep the wasps out. At this time of year reduce your hives down to two supers for a strong colony and down to one super for a new or weaker colony, many bees packed into a small space make it hard for wasps to get in.

You can set wasp traps up around your hive which you can make yourself from plastic bottles (there are heaps of examples on youtube) or buy them from your local hardware store. Although it feels great to see the wasps dying in the trap, the dozen or so you catch is nothing compared to the thousands of wasps found in most nests. Most importantly therefore is to try and find the wasp nest and kill it. This will also reduce the number of wasps for the following season.

So regardless of whether or not you keep bees yourself, you can help bees and your local beekeepers by being vigilant about any wasps that may be nesting in your garden and taking the steps to eradicate them.