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”Keep doing the right thing for the planet, yes, but also keep trying to save what you love specifically—a community, an institution, a wild place, a species that’s in trouble—and take heart in your small successes. Any good thing you do now is arguably a hedge against the hotter future, but the really meaningful thing is that it’s good today. As long as you have something to love, you have something to hope for.” - Jonathan Franzen
Gardening is not cancelled
Thank you to everyone in East Edmonton living near Bountagu, Pymmes Park or Sonny the Snail Sensory Garden who have taken home seeds and window boxes to green-up gardens and balconies.
It’s already July! We’d love to hear your experiences growing, whatever the size of your space- be it a windowsill, balcony or garden. Click on this survey and answer three short questions, your feedback will help the continuation of projects to provide free soil, plants and seeds to residents in the future.
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Bountagu Big Local
If you live in Lower Edmonton N9 or surrounding areas, check out Bountagu. A resident-driven community development initiative with the ambition to support and improve the community. If you want to get involved in creating more and better green spaces in the area, you can find out more about their Environment subgroup. They have distributed over 14 window boxes, 50 pollinator booklets and 100+ seed packets since April! You can fill in the details on the Bountagu Contact Form or get in touch by phone or email.
Bountagu also have an allotment space where volunteering is usually on Sundays. Contact the Environment Sub-group for more information.
Update on Mark’s Pollinator-friendly windowbox
Back in April, Mark Patterson from Apicultural London talked us through how to plant a pollinator friendly window box- he suggested using a soil-based compost (ideally peat-free) or, even better, an even mix of soil-based compost, sheep's wool compost to retain moisture, and general purpose compost. He layers the bottom with grit or gravel for drainage and purchases organically grown, pesticide-free plants.
You can start planting one up in autumn as Mark suggests, allowing the plants to settle into the soil in a protected environment before blooming early in spring. Even if the only outdoor space available to you at home is a windowsill, you can pick out of the three options Mark covers (find his tutorial in the “videos” section or click here to watch on YouTube. The small plants were potted in April- two months later, look at the colourful result!
The plants in this box are highly attractive to honey bees, bumblebees and butterflies. They can be purchased from Rosybee. Mark included:
- Oregano (marjoram)
- Dwarf lavender var. “little lotty”
- Thyme (thymus)
- Campanula persicifolia (campanula scissor bees only feed on these plants!)
- Trailing Campanula (varieties you could use include poscharskyana, carpatica and rapunculoides)
- Echium blue bedder (relative of viper’s bugloss, one of the best plants for bees)
- Bugle (aguta reptans)
- Pansy (Viola “hanna may”)
- Bird’s-foot trefoil
- Snapdragons (Antirrhinum)
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Friends of Pymmes Park
Sumishta took home a windowbox several months ago during lockdown and has made some videos covering her seedling’s progress! She grew a packet of salad rocket, with success:
FOPP will be sowing more seeds before the end of the summer. Keep your eyes peeled for further updates on their website, instagram or twitter to get involved creating more pollinator-friendly patches in communal green spaces in Enfield.
The Big Butterfly Count will run from Friday 17 July - Sunday 9 August 2020- an easy-to-take-part nationwide survey aimed to help assess the health of our environment. Last year over 100,000 people took part. You simply count butterflies and moths for 15 minutes in bright (preferably sunny) weather during the big butterfly count, using their online (downloadable) chart or simple App to help with your identifications. You’ll be surprised how much you learn and how easy it is to identify common butterflies. You can also share pictures on social media with #ButterflyCount. Follow their Save Butterflies Instagram or @savebutterflies on twitter.
Following the butterfly theme, the Garden Butterfly Survey allows you to record and report the butterflies that visit your garden over the year. You create a free account, submit your sightings and help them learn more about how butterflies are faring in UK gardens.
As mentioned last month, the vast majority of moths are not here to eat our clothes. They are beautiful garden insects, just like butterflies, that play a vital role as overnight pollinators of a wide range of flowers and plants. Their decline is worrying for the whole ecosystem and our food system. This month from 11-30th July is international @Moth_Week. If you sight any moths, you can use species-identifying app iNaturalist to record what you see in nature. This app is also great to meet other nature lovers and learn about the natural world around us, be it plants, insects or mammals. Any moths you submit during National Moth Week will be automatically added to the National Moth Week 2020 project. Some county/regional partners also have projects on the site you can manually add your observations.
In your garden- tips from Auberon
Auberon from Cultivate London has been covering some easy gardening skills on the Brentford Together blog you try this summer to support your pollinator-patch, including:
- Sowing marigolds. These were one of the distributed Pollinator Paths seed packets. Marigold (Calendula) seedheads can saved at the end of the summer- simply cut and hand up with a string to dry and store in a paper envelope to avoid moisture build up and rotting. Marigold seeds are a lovely curled caterpillar type shape that is easily picked and ready to sow again next year in May.
- Taking softwood cuttings from plants you want to propagate in your garden. Instead of buying a new plant, have a go at taking a cutting from a wide range of perennials, herbs, and deciduous shrubs such as chrysanthemums, lupins, lavender, salvia… It is much easier than one thinks!
- Making nettle tea - an incredibly simple liquid feed for your plants, rich in nitrogen.
He is also running a “how to” series on getting your garden growing via Brentford Together’s Facebook Live - join by clicking on @BrentfordTogether’s live feed on Wednesdays at 3pm and have your garden-related questions ready for the comments box!
The focus this month is on hoverflies, an important pollinator and gardener’s friends. You’ll recognise hoverflies even from a distance by their habit of moving and then abruptly hovering in mid-air. Superficially they look like wasps or bees to avoid predation- but look closer, notice they have two wings (rather than four like a wasp), and have short and stubby antennae. Their most identifiable characteristic is their hovering flight. Their larvae eat aphids on crops and, as adults they feed on nectar like bees.
There are many species, a common one is called the “marmalade hoverfly”.
Poppy Okotcha, permaculture designer and urban forager who has posted a beautiful video on the website on permaculture, talks about the importance of hoverfly friends for growers and how they should not be overlooked here.
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“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens.” - Bill Mollison, Permaculture expert
Beyond our back garden
Turning concrete to greenery not only has a positive impact on biodiversity, but greatly impacts our well-being. Research shows there are five simple things we can do as part of our daily life to build resilience, feel better and lower the risk of mental health problems. Gardening can encompass all of these simple Ways to Wellbeing:
- Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Gardening with others in nature makes the best environment for a fulfilling, unrushed chat, and there is a task for everyone.
- Be active: for a walk or run. Step outside. Garden. Play a game. Water, sow seeds, turn compost, unpave, make a pond… there is always something to do and make outside!
- Take notice of the unusual, the changing seasons, the moment. When we are gardening, we are interacting with our bodies with the soil, with plants, with the sun and wind. We can momentarily get out of our heads and just notice simple beauties nature gifts to us.
- Keep learning through trying something new, rediscovering and old interest, or taking on a new responsibility. You could gain a snippet of horticulture knowledge, discover something in your local area… learning is a lifelong journey.
- Give: Do something nice for a team-mate. Thank someone. Volunteer your time. You can connect with your nearest garden hub, learn more about their work and volunteer time or donate resources. Give time, knowledge or seeds to a neighbour. Through creating a wildlife-friendly space, you are also giving back to the ecosystem that sustains us.
Do any of the above aspects of well-being resonate when gardening? Scattering seeds, potting up window boxes, making local connections… you are playing a part in creating greener communities. Your experience is important. You can share these by emailing [email protected] or share on social media or the Pollinator Paths Facebook group. This is also a space to share gardening questions, connect to green-minded neighbours, a space to share events or article.
By connecting to wider campaigns and our nearest community gardens, we can also take action beyond our private garden. As well as Insect week this month (see the link below in the Pollinator Focus section), there are on-going campaigns you can get involved with:
- Convince your council that wildflowers are part of our road verges. Sign this petition or write a letter to your council. Plant life has a number of useful resources.
If you’re keen to get out and record some pollinator sightings to aid conservation work, look into:
- The Garden Butterfly Survey allows you to record and report the butterflies that visit your garden over the year. You create a free account, submit your sightings and help them learn more about how butterflies are faring in UK gardens.
- National Moth Recording scheme: take part in conservation by spotting moths and submitting recordings online, or email them to your county moth recorder. You can also search for moth sightings in your area. #MothsMatter
This month in the garden
Help protect your garden by checking the underside of young, fresh leaves for the first signs of aphids – these are usually the young who clump together and are often wingless at this stage. They suck the plant’s sap and grow quickly in size, excreting a sugary substance called honeydew. This amazing food is a favourite with ants who sometimes stroke the young aphids with their antennae to ensure its production, and innovative bees can make honey from it! Aphids can be bad news for gardeners because they infest young plant shoots which can then distort and wither, but they are food for other insects such as ladybirds, so leave them alone if you can.
It’s time to eat: nasturtium leaves, flowers and seeds which have a peppery flavour similar to horseradish and wasabi - pop them into a salad for a bit of zing! If you have a surplus and are feeling adventurous, make a pasta sauce or soup by blending whatever combination of leaves, flowers and seeds that you have together with oil (nut oils are good), garlic and parmesan or another cheese you have – just whiz them together for a couple of minutes. The leaves are best early in the summer before they grow bigger, more peppery and go a bit tough – although you can par-boil them briefly first to get around this. Enjoy their fieriness with care!
Garden hub Sonny the Snail Sensory Garden is a sensory trail and garden in Ponders End for adults and children with any form of sensory deprivation and particularly autism. Sonny the Snail’s trail for all 5 senses was opened in 2019 with the hard work from a small team. There is also a larger garden under construction where children will be able to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables from scratch. You can Follow them on Instagram, like them on Facebook, or email them for more information about their sensory garden trail, how you can get involved in Pollinator Paths activities, or help constructing their wildlife garden. If you’re as curious and interested as this lovely tabby cat was when the windowsill planters were delivered recently, they also have seeds to give away.
Permaculture with Poppy and Bees with Sean
New videos are up on the Pollinator Paths website:
Poppy Okotcha is a Permaculture Designer & Organic/No-dig Grower onboard @thebigblueboat. Her video will introduce the principle of permaculture and how to put it into practice in your garden, and find awe in how interconnected and complex gardens are!
Sean Hearn is a sustainable beekeeper and grower based in London who has been working with honeybees for over ten years. Learn about the different types of bees that your planting or handiwork will encourage.
The focus this month is on Beetles because they are the largest group of insects. With 300,000 species worldwide and around 4,000 in Britain, beetles make up around 40% of all our insects. They are easy to recognise because their front wings are hard, covering the second pair of wings and the abdomen. All beetles have biting mouthparts but that doesn’t make them dangerous, it’s just because they eat lots of different foods – as well as nectar and pollen from flowers, their diet ranges from animal dung to rotting wood!
The most familiar beetle is probably the ladybird, with their distinct red carapace and black spots that makes them look almost clown-like. Although they are still quite common, their numbers are declining which is bad news because as well as being pollinators, both adults and larvae eat aphids, making them doubly useful. Another common example is the whirligig beetle – look out for these small, shiny oval beetles that swim in frenzied circles on the surface of ponds and slow-moving rivers!
You can look up beetles you see and find out lots more about British beetles using these great fact sheets in this amazing Beetle Gallery. If you want to learn even more about beetles and other pollinating insects, get ready for National Insect week which will run between 22nd and 28th June. This year it will be hosted online for the first time, with plenty of resources and activities to do at home. Twitter fans can get tweeting: #NIW2020
You heard about it here first
Last month our Pollinator Focus featured moths and highlighted how important they are being one of the few night-time pollinators. The BBC has since published an article about how recent research showed they are crucial pollinators with a ‘secret role’ and are not only there to eat your clothes! Read the article: Nature Crisis: Moths.
Ready, Steady… Grow! Sign up for Free Seeds.
Calling residents of East Edmonton living near Bountagu, Pymmes Park or Sonny the Snail Sensory Garden. We have some seeds, booklets and windowsill boxes ready for those who want to give planting for pollinators a go this spring and summer. Seed-sowing season is now!
No experience is required, but numbers are limited so please register your interest here and we’ll get back to you soon.
You can also contact your nearest garden hub directly. Spread the word - to neighbours and family, and join the Pollinator Paths Facebook group to get tips, up to date news and ask any gardening questions you have in the next few months. This is also a space to share pictures, events, and connect with your green-minded neighbours!
This month, introduce yourselves to garden hub Friends of Pymmes Park: “We are a tiny band of locals who love our park. We feed the birds, litter pick, plant, and host events in the park's visitor centre. Annually we have a pride of Edmonton party where people who used to live locally gather. We are currently becoming increasingly active locally and collaborating on all sorts of exciting new ventures. Pollinator paths is one of the first ventures of this kind that we are embarking on - we’re excited to be spreading the word locally, getting active on social media, and connecting with other local groups. We feel a little like bees buzzing about the neighbourhood! Thus far we have enlisted the help of vicars, social workers, local photographers, a fantastic neighbourhood watch group and a few 7-year olds…watch this space for their artwork as their seeds become saplings!“
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First steps towards pollinator-friendly gardens and balconies.
Learn all about how to create nesting and foraging sites for pollinators; no matter the size of your outdoor space, check these videos out:
Mark Patterson shows you how to plant a windowsill box perfect for pollinators. You have three designs to choose from and tips on how to source plants and soil during lockdown. These “nectar bars” will provide a long season of flowers for various wee beasties. Visit Marks’s website: Api:Cultural for a wealth of information on the variety of bees and bee-friendly plants.
Dan’s bee block video explains how to make a home for some of the 280 species of solitary bees we share our city with. All you need is a drill and some wood cuts- it’s a great lockdown activity. If you have spare materials and time on your hands, you can also investigate larger designs such as this bee hotel or this bumblebee nest. Follow Dan’s tweets on @ecoestistUK.
Get involved: Share your gardening and pollinator-spotting experiences
Are you noticing more of nature’s details during your daily exercise? Spending more time in your garden or on your balcony? Share your gardening and pollinator-spotting updates, and any photos and videos you’ve taken during the lockdown and beyond – it’s a great activity when you’re feeling bored. We’d love to feature your pictures in next month’s blog! Connect with others doing the same through wider campaigns such as #wildlifefrommywindow.
Please use #PollinatorPaths so your posts are shared with everyone at each of the garden hubs and others can help identify your insects. Have you seen what other people are spotting right now? This tiny bee spotted recently is most likely a painted mining bee.
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Everyone loves butterflies, and rightly so. They have stunning colours and long tongues to feed from the nectaries of deep, tubular flowers. There is something undeniably magical about them-the folklore of a wide range of cultures, from Ancient Egypt to Roman Greece, associate them with the soul. They are often associated with transformation due to their capacity to evolve from an egg, to a caterpillar, to a pupa, to a butterfly.
To find out what you might see this month click here. Click on the butterfly name to get more information and see pictures, then keep your eyes peeled!
If you also love butterflies or would like to learn more about them, get ready for the Big butterfly count planned for the summer (July-August 2020)
But, what about moths? We instantly think of small, uninteresting creatures that makes holes in our clothes. That might make you think urgh, but only two species of clothes moths are problematic. There are over 2,500 species of moths in the UK – the vast majority are garden moths with stunning colours and long tongues, just like butterflies. Sadly, most species are declining, including many beautiful moths which were previously very common and frequently seen in our gardens. This is really bad news because they are important pollinators and are a good indicator of how healthy our local environment is. Their decline is also bad for other wildlife because the moths and their caterpillars are an important source of food for amphibians, small mammals, bats and many birds.
In French, moths are called “night butterflies” because they are great nocturnal pollinators, being some of the few insects that are active at night. Maybe this would be a better name for them?
Welcome to our monthly blog!
This spring take part in the exciting opportunity to create green havens on your windowsills, balconies and gardens in East Edmonton. We are partnering with Friends of Pymmes Park, Bountagu and Sonny the Snail Sensory Garden as garden hubs who will share information and resources to raise awareness of pollination and encourage a community of growers! Garden Hubs will have a limited number of seed packets and windowsill boxes to share locally- if you are an Edmonton resident please get in touch with your nearest one to enquire. The Pollinator Paths Facebook group is a space to send pictures, updates and ask gardening questions, etc. You can also email [email protected]
Why support pollinators?
Pollinating insects (including bees, butterflies, moths and hoverflies) pollinate 90% of UK plants and play a vital role in fruit and vegetable, herb and flower production. Habitat loss and pesticide us are threatening their survival so we can counteract by creating pollinator paths in our area and harvest some greens for ourselves in the process!
We can act local and think global. #PollinatorPaths is just one of the many local efforts to restore our ecosystems and add greenery to our urban lives for us and nature. Connect with wider campaigns by sharing pictures of #wildlifefrommywindow, amazing garden moths with #MothsMatter and take part in butterfly conservation by sharing pictures of any winged beauties you spot with #ButterflyCount!
Many seeds are best sown in March, April and May. We are distributing packets of pot marigold (calendula), nasturtiums, salad rocket, sunflowers, creeping thyme or lemon balm. For those who have gardens or larger windowsill boxes, there are also Flowerscapes seed mixes to create micro-meadows! On the Pollinator Paths website, find details on how to sow, care for and harvest them in the Get Involved section. Contact your nearest Garden Hub to register for seed packets.
In this hot weather, it is best to water in the evening to avoid evaporation and leaves being scorched. After a good water, spread a layer of leaf mould or compost on the soil surface and around plants- mulch protects the soil from direct sunlight and prevents waterlogging or drying out. Over time the organic matter will rot down returning nutrients to the soil for the plants.
The solitary Red Mason bee is an important pollinator for many plants including fruit trees. Spot Mason Bees in flight now that they have emerged from hibernation in search of pollen and nectar in spring flowers, before nesting in mid-summer. They have thick gingery hair and look for holes in brick and wood to nest in. Check out Dan’s video on how to make a bee home with wood and a drill!
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