midsummer bee garden

My bumble bee garden kit from the Xerces Society arrived a few days earlier than I’d hoped it would (being so behind with everything), but having those poor plants sitting in my study, desperate for a permanent home, provided the incentive I needed to get back out there and start a garden.

Day 1) Select a site for the garden, and then machete your way towards it.

sunny, and as close as possible

The plants will thrive best in full sun, and the sunniest areas are to be found to the south of the Old Man. I needed to cut my way through more of that crop…

a likely site

On the other side, in full sun, this patch of land looked very promising… after I’d cleared away more of the crop, brambles, and some tiny saplings (sorry saplings, but you had to come out). What was left was mostly grass. I called home later that evening, and enjoyed the benefit of my parents’ decades of gardening experience. Mum gave me tips on how to do what I needed to do next…

Day 2) Get rid of the grass.

first turf

Here’s the start of the operation… I love my loppers, by the way – excellent for slicing through the large roots criss-crossing their way beneath the surface. But I’m getting ahead of myself. On the right, in the picture above, is the start of my upended-turf compost pile. Fast forward a couple of hours and I had cleared maybe a little over 12 square feet. Not bad, but not enough.

half-way there

Time to take a break and feature some of the companion insects flitting around me as I worked.

insect companion 1

insect companion 2

Day 3, morning) Clear more grass.

This seemed to go more quickly than yesterday, and by lunch time I had over 30 square feet of garden bed to play with (3.5 X 10 roughly). The plants would cover 60 square feet, if I could give it to them, but they will just have to make do with less for now. Here’s the bed, ready for the next phase. To try and help the soil keep some of its moisture, I ripped up a couple of bin bags I had with me and weighted them down with stones from the fire circle:

should have brought more bin bags...

Day 3, evening) A trip to Home Depot for some top soil and mulch. Heavy heavy heavy, so I rediscovered a set of wheels I once bought for suitcases before I invested in wheelie luggage. Wasn’t 100% certain they’d survive the trail to the garden site, but one can but try these things. Hint to Home Depot: if they’d had a collapsible wheel barrow, I’d have bought it like a shot. We don’t all drive pick-up trucks. (Although don’t get me started on my pick-up truck envy… or my tractor envy… or my desire for a John Deere riding mower… )

Day 4: The Summer Solstice!) Plant the garden.

But first, improve the soil. I don’t have great soil anyway, but I was also a bit worried about removing the top couple of inches when I de-turfed it. (Can’t wait for that to compost down…) So I worked in a few bags of top soil, and a large bag of organic garden soil, mixing it with what was already there.

an inviting bed


The instructions that came with the plants recommended planting through a weed barrier. Last night I taped together 30 square feet of newspaper and marked it out in a grid pattern, cutting holes in the paper at the points where the plants would go. Here it is in situ:

recycling my Independent weeklies

And finally… (collecting rocks, bottles, bits of iron and even a horse shoe on the way = “archaeology”)… 38 plants* plus three pepper plants… all mulched and watered… my midsummer bee garden! Solstice greetings to all!

the garden, with "archaeology" in the foreground

* Blue Wild Indigo, Yellow Coneflower, Purple Coneflower, Purple Prairie Clover, Wild Bergamot, Lavender Hyssop, Bottle Gentian, Ridell’s Goldenrod, New England Aster, Prairie Dropseed.

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