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On Monday 28th May 2018 we welcomed Wendy Maslin of the Beverley Beekeepers' Association to give us a talk illustrating the world of beekeeping and their importance to us as plant pollinators. Wendy provided us with a history of her family's involvement in beekeeping which goes back over many generations. She gave us some interesting facts about bees and their social behaviour. For example, they can tolerate cold weather but not cold and damp together. They do not hibernate during the winter but merely become less active. As well as the honey bee, there are about 25 species of bumble bee and 250 species of other bees that occur in the UK. A typical honey bee colony may contain up to 30,000 worker bees, 2000 drones and one queen during the season. The drones live purely to mate with queen bees and, their job done, will be driven out of the colony by the worker bees.


In UK, beekeeping is almost exclusively a hobby activity with very few professional bee farmers but, in France, the opposite situation occurs. Honey bees spend a lot of time grooming themselves which results in much of their collected pollen being lost. Bumble bees, on the other hand, are less fastidious and are more effective individually as pollinators although their overall numbers are much fewer. Bees are a very important pollinator of fruit and certain seed crops and their value to the UK economy is estimated at £120-130 million per year.

Bees are at risk due to loss of habitat, changes in agricultural practices, loss of hedgerows (particularly blackberries), adverse weather conditions and pests and diseases. Starving woodpeckers have been known to attack hives during very cold weather when they are unable to gain access to their normal insect food sources. Bees may suffer from various diseases such as Foulbrood, Nosema and various viruses. The Varroa mite which was first identified as an import into Devon in 1992 is a parasite which feeds on bee larvae. More recently, the Asian hormet which attacks and kills honey bees has been found in the UK and, whilst every hornet colony found so far has been destroyed, it is likely to be only a matter of time before mere vigilance becomes ineffective and this predator becomes a real problem for beekeepers and UK bee populations. Asian hornets are very agressive and will even attack humans.

In the meantime, we can all help bee populations to thrive by ensuring that they have plenty of forage flowers to feed on. Dandelions, whilst for many an unsightly menace in lawns, are actually very high in nectar content compared to other flowers. Borage nectar is very high in fructose which means that the honey produced from this flower stays runny in the jar rather than crystallising out. Beekeepers use smoke when working with bees and hives. The smoke pacifies the bees by inducing a feeding response which cancels out their otherwise normal defensive behaviour.

Further details about bees and the British Beekeepers Association can be found here.

You can read about the latest research work on the effect of neonicotinoids on bees here.

 

On Wednesday 23rd May 2018 Trevor Barningham and Keith Abel attended the Schools Food and Farming Education Day at the Showground, Kellythorpe, Driffield. This has become an annual event which has been running for a number of years. Schools from across the East Riding of Yorkshire and Hull City enjoy an open day full of activity to enable them to understand where our food comes from. Ages range from 7 to 11 years old and many have possibly never seen the type of equipment on show throughout the day. There was all the latest high technology agricultural equipment; a number of farm animals as well as demonstrations from farm safety, road safety and fire safety experts.

The NVS remit remit was to encourage children to grow their own quality vegetables. Trevor and Keith had a large collection of growing vegetables and plenty of information on how to achieve the end product using various growing mediums. There were over a thousand children at the event and time scales were very tight to get every group around the whole arena. Most of the children were very enthusiastic and many of the schools have their own garden to work with.

 

 

Although billed as Slugs and Snails, Geoff Wilson's talk entitled Leaf Nibblers and Sap Suckers on Monday 26th March 2018 actually covered a wide range of both nasty and friendly invertebrate beasties.

Geoff was a chemical engineer for some 40 years and firmly believes that, rather than spraying synthetic chemicals around indiscriminately, you first need to identify your enemies correctly and know how they live before you can effectively overcome them. Often, alternative strategies such as crop rotation, pruning, general cleanliness and the use of naturally-occurring botanical compounds are just as effective and less harmful to the environment.

We learned that only four of the many types of slugs and snails found in the UK present any kind of problem and remain largely inactive below a temperature of 7°C. Metaldehyde, the common slug pellet ingredient but which started off life as a camp fire fuel, is toxic to all sorts of wildlife and is even entering public water supplies. Nemaslug is a safer alternative which contains nematode worms and which act as a natural predator.

We learned about the life cycle of various types of aphids and related insects and that sprays based on coffee, neem extract and soapy water (horticultural or insecticidal soap and NOT household detergent) can be very effective. Simply using a hosepipe can also work well by washing off the aphids on to the ground where they can be eaten by ground beetles and similar natural predators. You can read about insecticidal soap here.

There are many beneficial insects to be found in the garden which act as natural predators. Examples include lacewings, ladybirds, hoverflies, wasps and various beetles. In some cases biological control of pests or, in the case of the Allium Leaf miner, physical barrier protection such as fleece coverings, are the only effective solution. You can read more about Allium Leaf miner here.

With the kind permission of Geoff Wilson, for those who were unable to attend this meeting, I have reproduced his hand-out notes and added them to the Growing Hints page.
 

 

 

Despite the warnings of adverse weather, a fair number of people attended our Monday 26th February 2018 meeting which featured Keith Abel describing A Year in Our Garden with the aid of a set of slides illustrating various points of interest throughout the year. Keith grows vegetables and a few late chrysanthemums while Janet, the other half of 'Our' garden, grows early chrysanthemums. Both are championship level growers and exhibitors in their own right and have won many trophies and awards in their chosen fields of expertise. Celery is one of Keith's specialist subjects and his celery often feature in the NVS exhibition stands at Harrogate Shows.Keith told us about the history of their garden in Leconfield which has been reduced in size following the loss of part of their neighbour's land which, unfortunately, they now no longer have access to for cultivation purposes, although they do share an allotment elsewhere. This means that their garden facilities are highly compact and growing cycles have to be carefully project-managed throughout the year in order to accommodate the demands and requirements of their many exhibition varieties of vegetables and chrysanthemums. Such is their dedication that even holidays have to be fitted in carefully around key dates in their growing and showing calendar, as well as the availability of an assistant to carry out the watering duties during their absence!


The information provided was extensive but some key points to emerge from this talk included the following. The fungicide Cheshunt Compound is no longer available to purchase but Sigma was said to be obtainable through the National Chrysanthemum Society. Celery need lots of water to grow properly and potatoes need to be kept moist throughout their tuber formation in order to achieve and retain smooth skins. Onions should not be overwatered, especially close to harvest time, otherwise split bulb skins will result and damage the chances of success on the showbench. Footpowder containing fungicide is potentially more useful than basic talcum powder for dressing onion skins during the ripening process. Young leek seedlings, especially those removed from seedheads, often exhibit a distinct bend which can be straightened by wrapping foam pipe lag tubing around the barrel and tying tightly for a week or so. It is important that this is done early as this treatment is less successful with older plants. Keith aims to obtain 18" (45cm) of blanch by mid-May in order to obtain exhibition quality leeks for showing in September.

When watering plants in the greenhouse, try to use water that is of the same ambient temperature. Repeated use of overcool water may shock the plants, affect their growth rate and, in the case of leeks and onions, may even cause bolting. Growing Tagetes alongside plants in the greenhouse helps to deter pests and also provides an extra bit of colour. Provado is the insecticide of choice to use on ripening chrysanthemum buds and using clothes pegs to attach bloom bags to chrysanthemum stems is easier than string or wire ties

 

 

 

After the AGM held on 29th January 2018, Anne Augustyns told us that she fell in love with gladioli when she visited Harrogate Show for the first time, just a few years ago, and now grows 350 plants on her allotment. Anne has managed to win five cups and trophies at local Yorkshire Shows with her gladioli so far, although she claims to be a mere novice! She sows her corms in April/May staggered at two week intervals and plans to have blooms ready for her first Shows in July. The ground is rotavated and given a light dressing of growmore fertiliser. Corms are then sown 3" - 4" deep and 6" apart with rows spaced at 12" intervals. The plants are staked from the beginning in order to keep the stems growing upright in the open windy conditions experienced on her allotment site. She uses a commercial taping machine and aims to tie a band beneath the first bud leaves although one of her favourite varieties Rotary does not really need staking, in her experience. She does not grow under cover but is currently investigating how best to build some protective framework in the future as she recognises that perfect blooms can easily be destroyed by wind and rain. She does not spray or use any form of pesticides since she has not experienced any thrip damage to her blooms, so far. Anne has tried growing a few gladioli in containers under cover but found that the resulting blooms were rather stunted and of insufficient Show quality.

Anne buys quality corms of recognised provenance from Great Western Gladiolus rather than cheap, shop-bought and mass-produced varieties. Her favourite varieties are Esta Bonita, Bonfire, Rotary, Amsterdam, Careless, Cream Perfection and Flevo. Some varieties such as Amsterdam retain their vigour for several years but, generally, she likes to buy new stock each year, preferring medium-sized corms rather than the largest available size. After blooming, her corms are lifted in September/October. She snaps the stalk off rather than letting them die back naturally and then allows the lifted corms to dry off in a cool greenhouse.

Generally, for showing purposes, Anne looks for stems that exhibit a third of blooms fully open, a third half-open and a third in bud, borne on straight spikes. She will cut 20 stems from which to select the best six for staging on each Show day which is the reason why she needs to grow so many plants each year. She used to cut her stems on the morning of the Show but now cuts them two or three days ahead and keeps them cool and dark and in buckets of water in her garage. Stems are cut on the slant, rather than straight across, in order to maximise the surface area available for water take-up. Anne's normal and easily recognised method of transport to the Shows is a small, two-seater yellow sports car. In view of the somewhat restricted storage space available, she has designed special corrugated sheet trays to accommodate and transport her stems which are laid flat in the bottom of each channel with the cut end of each stem enclosed in a small plastic bag of water.







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