Here at Incredible Edible Bristol HQ we are working towards a year where we put pollinators at the forefront of our hearts and minds and, bizarrely this means that the majority of this post is going to be about flowers. And I’m not even going to apologise for that.
In order to upscale urban food production in our towns and cities it is going to be vital that we ensure our pollinator populations are high enough to be able to take on the role we need them to do. This isn’t just about bees but is about moths and wasps and all those tiny hoverflies and the other insects that are vital to ensure our food is pollinated and sets fruit, be that our apple blossom in spring or our courgettes in summer. Without pollination we have a big problem. We need these creatures to go from flower to flower to collect nectar to feed on so that they can also pollinate our crops or we will be in trouble.
So what can you do I hear you ask? Well now is the ideal point to sow hardy annuals from seed in order to overwinter the small plants and get them flowering earlier than they would from a March sowing. A March sowing can then take place to ensure lots of pollen rich crops are available over a long period in the late spring, summer and early autumn.
The timescale to do this now is fairly short, in that these need to be sown in the next week or 2, but it will be well worth it to ensure a steady stream of pollinators to your garden. The list of what to sow is huge, and includes Snapdragons, English Pot Marigolds, Ammi, Wild Carrots, and many, many more, but once you’ve decided what to plant it’s really easy to sow them and then you just need to keep them under cover once it starts to get really cold, until the end of February/beginning of March when you can start to harden them off by putting them outside during the day to acclimatise them for a while and then planting them out once the really hard frosts are over.
To sow them, I usually use modules as space wise these are the most efficient, in multi purpose, peat free compost that I have seived a bit to take any lumps out of. Make a dent in the soil with your thumb, sow 3-5 seeds in each module so you get a nicely bushy plant, cover the seeds with some more sieved compost and put in a safe place where they’ll get lots of light and a bit of fresh air. If you water the compost before you sow the seeds, they will only need the lightest sprinking post sowing, and this should keep them damp enough so that they don’t need much water until they start to germinate, when they will need to be kept moist. Once the weather starts to cool, water with caution, although don’t allow to dry out and should they freeze remember that they will need watering as soon as they have defrosted as frozen soil is the equivalent of drought.
So where do I get these seeds I hear you cry!! Well here is a great start as a local to the south west and sustainable business.
And next time I promise we will talk veg.