Sandgate Community Garden: Update 20 June 2021

We have gone from having to water to a deluge of rain in one week.  It is a relief not to have to water right now, and the rain makes such a difference to the whole garden.  On Wednesday evening we got 45.1mm of rain in one go, flattening some of the taller growth in the garden which was simply annoying when the RHS judge turned up  the next afternoon.  We will have to wait and see if he thinks we have improved on our grade last year, but he seemed suitably impressed with the progress so far.

Now we can breathe for a while and continue to get on with the many jobs needing doing.  There was plenty to pick this week, pea shoots, beetroot, spring onions, rhubarb, salad leaves, garlic, broccoli, cabbages, sugar snap peas, the first sweet pea flowers and broad beans.  We had visitors to collect some food, but anything that is left is currently taken to Sandgate High Street to see if there are any takers in town.  We are looking forward to working with the Kent Food Hub to make sure any excess can be usefully distributed.

The lettuce seedlings got pricked out into modules to grow on, as did the purple sprouting, Nero kale and swede.  Just a couple of weeks and they will be planted out, so we need to create more space for them to go to!  The last of the beans got planted as did more spring onions.

A couple of weeks ago we mentioned that we had seen the yellow female chaser dragonfly but not the blue males.  They are now very much in evidence, and the females have been seen laying eggs in the pond to continue the cycle.

Beekeeping update – June 2021 

Chris, one of our resident bee keepers has written this update below.

‘Ray and I thought we would give you an update on the bee hives at the community garden. We are both trained beekeepers, Ray has more knowledge and experience than me but we both discuss and agree a strategy and then carry it out together.

We have had issues this year with both colonies. One hive contains black stripy bees that Ray rescued from an overturned abandoned hive last year and the other hive contains a colony of orange stripy bees. Both colonies overwintered relatively well, it is normal that numbers are low in early spring but once the weather warms up, the queen starts laying in earnest and the colony quickly builds up in quantity. The issue with both hives has been that the queens have not been laying this year in significant quantities so the size of each colony is shrinking, as the older bees die off they are not being replaced.  We don’t know the age of the black queen (from the previously abandoned hive) and it may just be that she is coming towards the end of her life.  We do however; know the age of the orange queen because she was purchased last year as a mated pedigree young queen.

Having spoken to other beekeepers, the only conclusion we can come to is that she was not properly mated and has run out of fertilized eggs from which the worker bees are produced.  In very simple terms, the virgin queen will fly off to mate with a number of male (drone) bees and then return to the hive to spend the rest of her life laying eggs which in turn become honey bees. The queen’s mating flight is fraught with danger, she may be eaten by a passing bird, she may get lost or injured and be unable to return to the hive or the weather might be inclement meaning she returns to the hive without sufficient sperm to fertilise all her eggs – we think this is the likeliest scenario.

We also have to bear in mind that we have had one of the coldest and wettest springs on record, night after night of frost and then lots and lots of rain. Many colonies do not make it through the winter but this year, many survived the winter only to succumb to the unfavourable spring conditions.

Beekeeping is full of jeopardy but all is not lost…

Ray has managed to capture a large swarm of honey bees and these have been placed in a small hive called a nucleus in the community garden. The plan is to combine the swarm with one of the main hives and begin the process of increasing the size of the colony using the queen from the swarm.  So, there is an outside chance, I repeat outside chance that the community garden may get a small amount of honey after all later in the year.  Beekeeping is never easy. Watch this space for further updates…’

What’s next?

  • Sow a few chicory seeds for hearting
  • Sow a few more kale seeds
  • Sort out the hops, cut back lower growth and cut out any extra shoots
  • Plant out more celeriac
  • Water new bean plantings if required
  • Take out pea shoots to make space for new seedlings