How To Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden Part Five

Native Bee Hive

Increase your harvest in the vegetable patch by getting native bees to do all the work for you. They will increase the pollination of pumpkins, cucumbers and squash flowers. These crops have flowers notorious for poor pollination and sometimes you have to hand pollinate them individually with a paint brush. For some crops, such as macadamias, mangos, chokos, coconuts, strawberries, lychees, watermelons, avocados and citrus, the native bees may be better than the commercial honey bees.

Australia has about 2000 species of native bees, but only 10 of these are social bees -with a queen, drones and workers, like the honey bees. These social native bees are stingless, and live in colonies of up to many 1000s, in such places as hollow trees. They are 3 - 4 mm long and look like small flies.

Choose the right position before opening the hive, a location with morning sun is preferred, especially in winter. Position the hive in a protected spot under a veranda, away from the western afternoon sun which can cook them. Open the two holes and watch them do an orientation flight to memorise the position of their new home. Within a day you’ll be able to see bees coming home with pollen on their legs – mission accomplished.

Log hives are recommended for the NSW South Coast because they are normally much better insulated than boxed hives.
On the western fringe of Sydney and the eastern side of the Blue Mountains, special care needs to be taken in siting boxed hives. Placement in a shed or veranda is recommended. Log hives are more reliable.
Keeping stingless bees is not recommended on the western side of the Blue Mountains and in more inland and southern areas of NSW because the low winter temperatures can cause loss of lives.
Honey harvesting is not recommended in cooler areas of NSW because the bees need their excess honey stores to survive the winter months. Called 'sugar bag' by aboriginals, this honey has been prized by them for centuries as an extremely important source of carbohydrate and a medical remedy.

Comfrey Tea

This home-grown fertiliser contains more potash, and more nitrogen, than commercial feeds, and costs only the price of a bucket and its water. Vegetables will love it, especially the tomatoes.

Symphytum officinale - Comfrey
This is a perennial herb with broad hairy leaves and small bell-shaped white, cream, purple or pink flowers. It is native to Europe, where is grows in damp, grassy places. Comfrey is not a culinary herb, in fact it’s poisonous. Its great powers lie in its ability to store, and then pass on, minerals and nutrients. This has made it a popular choice as a fertiliser for organic gardeners for generations.

Mature comfrey plants can be harvested up to four or five times a year. It is said that the best time to cut comfrey is shortly before flowering, as this is when it is at its most potent. Comfrey will continue growing into mid-Autumn, but it’s best not to take cuttings after early autumn so that the plant can build up winter reserves. As the leaves die back and break down in winter, nutrients and minerals are transported back to the roots for use the following spring. As well as making the all-purpose fertiliser comfrey tea, comfrey leaves can also be added to the compost for extra potency!

A word of warning though - watch out when dividing comfrey plants, and take care not to spread root fragments around, or dump them in the compost. Comfrey can be a very difficult plant to get rid of.

What you need:

A nice bundle of comfrey leaves
A bucket

Half-fill a bucket with chopped comfrey leaves and weigh down with a brick. Fill the bucket with water and cover for three weeks. Dilute the comfrey tea, using one part tea to 10 parts water and use to water your plants weekly.

Potatoes/ 28 spotted ladybug
Most ladybirds, ladybugs or ladybeetles as they are sometimes known are brightly coloured and are often loved and portrayed kindly in fairytales. Most of them are natural controllers of aphids, scale insects and mites which otherwise damage plants.

However there is a villain amongst them and that is the 28 spotted or leaf eating ladybird. They're easy to identify. Adults are up to 1cm long, a light orange colour and they have 28 spots. Both adults and larvae feed on a range of plants - cabbage, potato and bean family are preferred foods. The larvae are easy to recognise because they creamy-white in colour with black spiny hairs. Usually the adults feed on the upper surface of leaves, while the larvae feed on the lower surface.

They are easy to see so hand removal is the best method. Often the eggs are visible on the under-side of leaves and they too can be squashed!

SUPPLIERS - (Bees and Beehive)

For more:

Read How To Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden Part One
Read How To Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden Part Two
Read How To Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden Part Three
Read How To Grow Your Own Vegetable Garden Part Four

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