At rosybee we are undertaking research as well as providing plug-plants. Over the last few weeks we have been ploughing up sections of the site and preparing the ground for sowing a range of different commercially available seed mixes. The picture here, shows the bumblebee mix, lush and green in early June just before flowering. Our preparation was to plough, then harrow sections of our field - that has been grazing land for several decades - and then wait for the surface to get 'crumbly'. Ideally I would have liked to allow for the seed-based weeds to germinate during March it was too dry for any wees to emerge. We sowed in early April when the forecast was for rain. The area we have prepared is approximately two and a half acres which is too small for tractor sowing but too big to rake over by hand so, with the help of my daughter, we spend the weekend sowing onto the surface. We found a very handy 'spreader' with a winding handle that smoothly distributes the seed in a circle as you walk along and covers about a 3 meter wide area - very useful, but still quite a lot of walking up an down.
We have sown seed mixes with the aim of
- observe which mix the bees like best (and which type of bees) and
- over the next 3 years, how do the mixes last over time
The mixes are
- an 80% grass, 20% wildflower commercial mix to the Defra specification advised for field margin Environment Schemes
- a 'bumblebee' mix of 100% flowers including borage and phacelia
- a more expensive 30% wildflower mix with a much wider range of perennial wildflowers
- a mix that is widely used and recommended in France
- a 'nectar and pollen' 100% legume mix with lots of clovers
- a solid strip of borage
- a solid strip of phacelia
Most of the mixes germinated quite quickly when the rains came but the borage only started to show (pictured right) now that it has warmed up again.
The phacelia in the bumblebee mix has grown the most but is much more advanced in the more loamy soil near our access way than in the heavy clay soil in the main field. We can also see a certain amount of dock and cow parsley coming up too but that was inevitable and we will just have to live with that.
We now need them all to flower so that we can count the bees as the main focus of the research.