Gardening within limits (London) 2017

I rent. One day – fate and finances willing – I’ll have a home with a patch of land and can really flex my gardening muscles, but at this point I’m getting pretty handy working within the limits of space, soil and scope that renting applies. We’re due to move again in a month, so I’m looking back at what I’ve managed in the last three years; and am rather pleased about it 🙂

Starting out.

The emptiest photo I could find to show the garden before I put anything in it. Or furniture in the living room, at that!

I managed to bring a few plants with me from the last (rented) place, although that was limited to what had been able to survive the twin assaults of snails and vine weevils that made such a meal of my Brighton garden. So, a small trough of foxgloves, some potted fushias, an extremely nibbled dwarf honeysuckle, two skimmias (male), and a surprisingly mollusc’d rhubarb. Luckily there is a B&Q fairly close to where we are, and I’m pretty good at resurrecting plants from the clearance section.

March 2017. Growing some broad beans for fun rather than For Science at last. Also featured: the 2016 Christmas tree, a bonus hellebore and bleeding heart.

Quite nice, but not doing a huge amount for wildlife at the time. Green is good, but we can do better. Fast forward to end of April (and this is London so things are fairly far ahead).

I was growing up tomatoes (various), squash, coleus and some ‘night sky’ petunias. They’re a bit useless where pollinators are concerned (to the point you can watch bees investigate, then give up), but I do love their flowers. The next set of photos are from July, showing a lot more of those plants, and also that I was going strongly with the ‘just shove it in there’ strategy of arranging pots. Still, a considerable improvement:

Garden left and right. Foxgloves looking lovely, coleus turning out to be a much larger plant than I had expected, squash starting to become a triffid.
It’s a jungle out there.

Following this there was a Housemate Watering Incident, so everything did need a bit more TLC than usual to recover. A summary of growing findings for this year are:
– Hanging baskets are a collossal pain in the bum when you live somewhere hot and windy. Water-retaining crystals don’t cut it if someone forgets to water things for a week.
– Dwarf broad beans are beloved by bees, but limited in yield in pots.
– Vine weevils will utterly wreck containers of strawberries as well as you fushias. Little buggers.
– Patio eggplants are cute, but I am not very good at growing them.
– I have no concept of how many is ‘too many’ tomatoes.

A final shot of the end-summer garden, before I move onto a new post and 2018!

A new venue for LJBees

So, whether you’re here from twitter, my old site / archive, or via entomological internet wanderings:

Hello, folks!

I’ve set up this blog as a new place for bringing together my interests in ecology, citizen science and gardening, and to provide a good place to house any projects I’m working on and answer questions from readers about any of the above.  There’s not a huge amount here yet, but that will change.

A quick summary of myself – I’m an entomologist, with specific interest in citizen science (the involvement of non-specialists in science) and the ecology of urban environments.  Most of us live in at least partly ‘urbanised’ areas, but that doesn’t mean that there is no wildlife to see, or that there aren’t things that we can do to help out the cosmopilitan critters that share our spaces. I’m particularly interested in the meeting between ecology and gardening – what works, what doesn’t, and what we can find out while we’re out there.  After all, “the only difference between messing around and science is writing it down”, and gardening by its nature involves interacting with the natural world, so gardeners are in a fantastic position to observe wildlife, even in places not specifically being managed for nature.

Question, comments or queries all welcome – send me an email or tweet @LJBees.

bee square 2
I do not always wear this bee costume, I promise.