Some pollination on the roof garden – but not many bees

About a month ago, I told you about my roof terrace and my intention to transform it in a bee garden. It was in a somewhat pitiful stage after the winter. Especially the wind and the storms during the winter did some harm. But I did some work on it, and now it’s already looking a bit better. A roof garden may have some limitations, but with some patience and planning the advances arrive.

Before and after

The corner where I have most of the flowers. After the winter, it looked quite sad, now the plants have grown well.

The first step was to change the soil in moist of the pots. It was mostly too wet and compacted, so that the plants couldn’t grow well. Especially in that huge pot in the background, the soil had only half its original volume and inside was more moss than the flowers I planted two years ago. I didn’t have much hope, the few seedlings coming up looked really unhappy. Despite the small plants on the outside, the roots were strong and it wasn’t easy to separate the plants from each other. Doing this, I also discovered that there was an ant nest in this pot. The poor things were hectically running around and trying to save their brood… sorry, girls.

However, finally I put some plants back into fresh soil.

Mallow, yarrow and a Stachys doing well after getting new soil.

Though they may be a bit too crowded, they look quite healthy and happy… I did the same procedure with the other pots, and, all in all, it did the plants well. So let’s hope they will all flower abundantly and attract many bees…

Growing vegetables and fruit

Another project I had for my roof garden was to grow some veggies and fruit. I missed the moment last autumn to get some small raspberry or blackberry varieties that also grow in pots (can anybody please remind me in October?), but bought some strawberries this spring.

This also serves the bee garden: strawberries are highly pollinator dependent and this first green fruit indicates that someone worked on it. I didn’t see who, though… For the vegetables, I’m having tomatoes every summer since about ten years. So I bought two little tomatoe plants – a cherry tomatoe variety. But my ambition drove me to sow beans and plant some peas, too. They’re doing beautifully…

My vegetable garden – bought a huge pot for them, they have almost 70 liters of soil…

My vegetable “garden” – beans (in the background), tomatoes and peas

The peas are flowering, also the tomatoes and the beans are taking over the world. Also these veggies are “pollinator friendly”: though some pea varieties aren’t as dependent on insect pollination like the strawberries, they are visited by bees. I’m hoping for some leafcutter bees, as they like the flowers of the pea family. It would be a win/win situation – veggies for me, pollen and nectar for them. I’m also hoping that this year I will finally get my first photo of a bumblebee buzzing on a tomatoe flower.

The bee part of the roof garden

Concerning the bees, I wasn’t as lucky this year. I’ve seen a few mining bees (Andrena sp.), and a few Red Mason Bees. Last year quite a few got into the trap nests I offered them. But the storms during the winter made them fall to the ground and there they soaked overnight in the rain until I saved them the next day. I wasn’t that happy with the trapnests anyway (ordered them online…), the wood wasn’t dry enough and it began to break already during the summer last year

Cracks in my wooden trap nests. Doesn’t look too bad on the photo, but the cracks go deep and right through the nests.

I definitely missed the hatching of the Mason Bees, but I hope to see when the scissor bees and some solitary bees I saw last year come out. Hopefully all that shaking from the wind and the humidity didn’t harm them too much.

Other “failures” and lessons learned

Failure may be too big as a word, but I wasn’t very lucky with the flowers I sowed this year. Those pots show only bare soil – though I carefully looked at them after sowing. I hope that at least a few of those flowers will come up. Then I should always remember to label my plants… in some cases I have no idea what is growing there. Especially because I recognise plants only by their flowers… I’m a bee person after all, and the flowers for me are the more interesting part. Sorry to all botanists.

I also definitely need more pots, and more huge ones. This is a challenge, as my taste goes towards Italian terracotta. Covering a 30m² terrace with them will be quite an investment… Labelling the plants will not only remember me who they are, but also give me information which plants do well under the conditions of my roof garden. And I should keep a designated notebook… as I only remember what I’ve written down.

Despite these small restriction, I’m quite happy with the progress on my terrace. It’s a learning. I’m sure that step after step I will realize that roof garden of my dreams – and attract many bees.

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