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Pollinators on the roof terrace – progress and fails

Pollinators on the roof terrace – progress and fails

On my roof terrace things are going on, despite some struggles. Most of the plants are doing well and all of them have their pollinators visiting. Let’s begin with my biggest experiment this year: my “kitchen garden”. The beans took over the world very quickly, grew immensely. And then I had to travel. This is the biggest struggle I always have, that I’m not at home for longer periods during the summer. Fortunately, a friend comes to water the plants. But this time he misunderstood the period I wasn’t at home and the plants remained without water for five days. Fortunately again, on one of these days, there was very heavy rain. So the plants survived with some dry leaves and yellow parts. But survived.

The beans though had an additional problem. The leaves were all yellow and the plants didn’t look very happy. I opted for the easiest solution and bought some fertilizer. This helped a bit, though they still don’t look happy. But the first little beans are appearing and the tomatoes are doing quite well.

vegetables, roof terrace, pollinators

First little beans on not so happy plants. Tomatoes going fairly strong, at least.

A huge fail was the pollinator observation on these plants: I saw some bumblebees on the tomatoes, but when I approached with the camera, they were immediately gone. Same for the beans. I had hoped to see some leafcutter bees on the flowers and to observe how they take up the pollen. But no chance. I saw a leafcutter once on the bell flowers. But of course… you know the story, I’m never fast enough with the photos. But however, no observations on the beans or peas.

Flowers on the roof terrace

The flowers are doing better than the vegetables. Mainly because I mostly chose species that don’t mind the direct sun, the heat and a little water stress. What makes me really happy is the Stachys (betony?) that is persisting below a huge mallow and the yarrow. I already mentioned that I always underestimate the space plants need… I like the Stachys as well, because I at least managed to get some photos from bumblebees feeding on it. The yarrow is very popular with resin bees (Heriades truncorum). Every morning I observe them collecting pollen in their characteristic way: tipping with the abdomen on the flower. But of course… you know the story. The best photo I could get from these little bees is from the yellow flower above this post. I will continue trying!

pollinators, roof terrace

Stachys is very popular with the bumblebees this year (B. pascuorum in this case). The yarrow is the favourite flower for resin bees on my roof terrace. And the borage again is loved by bumblebees.

Biggest fail so far

To be honest, there are two. The first relates to my insufficient planning/progress. It’s already July and I didn’t do as much as I would have liked on the terrace. One reason is the already mentioned travelling. Coming back, I always struggle to catch up with things. At the moment, my rhythm is two weeks at home, one week travelling. Too much hopping on trains and planes. But I decided to give this project the time it needs. As long as there is some progress, it’s ok. As I wasn’t very lucky with the plants I wanted to grow from seeds this spring, I will try again in the coming months. I found a list of flowers that are best sown in the second half of the year. So now I’ll select the species that don’t mind the hot and windy conditions on my roof terrace too much.

The second fail partly relates to this. Two years ago, I bought some trap nests which I hang up only last spring. I don’t remember where I got the recommendation for the place I ordered them, but I know that I got one. Last year, several mason bees made their nest in them, also some solitary wasps and the famous resin bees. The wood already had some little cracks, but nothing too bad. But during the summer the cracks got bigger and bigger. As a consequence, the nests weren’t protected from rain and cold (though I put the wooden blocks under a table during winter to protect them). And this year, of course no bee or solitary bee wanted to nest in these cracked blocks.

trap nest, bees, pollinators, roof terrace

Cracks in my wooden trap nests. Doesn’t look too bad on the photo, but the cracks go deep and right through the nests.

Learnings since the last update from the roof terrace

All in all, I’m happy with the situation. I know that it’s possible to grow vegetables on the terrace, though I should inform myself better about their needs. I’m realizing that I may use the same planning tools from my work also for these bigger private projects. After all, I manage to catch up with my work despite the travelling and I should do the same with the things I do just for fun. I still need more pots. Here the planning comes in again: last autumn I wanted to buy some when they were on sale because of the end of the season and then forgot.

The drainage I’m using in the pots (some kind of clay balls…) works well. At least the few massive rain events we had this year didn’t drown the plants like last year. I’m thinking of how to install an automatic watering for those plants that need more water. That’ll be a project for next year, I guess. On a beekeeping event in Austria I was ten days ago giving a talk, I got some inspiration how to modify the soil quality to adjust it to the plants’ needs.

Finally, this roof terrace is my favourite morning ritual (watering and talking to the plants and bees). I get some surprises, like this yellow flower on top of the post. I don’t remember its name, I bought it as an annual last year. This spring, some tiny leaves came out and I transferred it to fresh soil and a bigger pot. Now, after the yarrow, it’s very popular with this far too agile resin bee and is growing and flowering already for weeks. It may still not be how I imagined it, but this terrace makes me very happy.

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