What Do You Know About Allotments?

1x1.trans What Do You Know About Allotments?
(Image: By Petr Vilgus)

Have you ever wanted to do some good old fashioned gardening but were forced to accept the cruel reality that you simply didn’t have your own garden?

If so, one solution stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of providing the personal garden experience, without an actual garden. That one thing is allotment gardening, and if you haven’t looked into it yet, this article will give you some food for thought.

What Is An Allotment?

Let’s start with a  bit of detail and history. An allotment is an area of land divided into separate garden plots, with each plot being rented out to a different gardener, all for low costs usually ranging from between £20 and £30 per year, with the highest prices being about £100 per year.

Most allotment sites have water access and allow you to set up certain structures such as garden sheds.

Allotments are measured in “rods” (also known as “perches” or “poles) – a unit of measurement dating back to Anglo Saxon times. The average size of an allotment plot is “10 poles” which equals 250 square metres.

Now on to the history.

Allotments in the UK have a rich history which stretches back at least to the 18th Century, in their modern form, with a 1732 engraving of Birmingham showing the town as being surrounded by them. (Some of those allotments depicted in the engraving still exist today.)

The popularity of the allotment skyrocketed between the twilight years of the 19th Century and the dawn of the 20th Century, and were responsible for supplying most of the fruit and vegetables eaten by the poor during this time.

In 1873 there were 244,268 allotment plots in the UK.

During the First World War the allotments came to be referred to as “Victory Gardens”, and a successful pro -gardening propaganda campaign (using slogans such as “Dig On For Victory”) was carried out, subsequently boosting their popularity.

The end result? By 1918 there were around 1,500,000 allotment plots in the UK.

That number has tapered off dramatically since then, and in 2008 the number of plots had fallen to 330,000, with 100,000 more people on waiting lists in order to get a plot themselves.

Getting Started

1x1.trans What Do You Know About Allotments?
(Image: By Vladimir Menkov)

So, now you know a bit about the history of allotments in the UK, and perhaps you’ve decided that you’re interested in moving ahead and trying to get your hands on one.

Where to start?

Well, as The National Allotment Society helpfully points out, there are various ways of going about it:

(1)    Contact your local authority (Parish, Town, Borough, City or District Council) and they will provide you with a directory of the local allotment sites. From there you’ll have to register to join a  waiting list and see how long it takes before fortune smiles upon you.

(2)    Contact your local allotment society and ask them about privately owned allotments which don’t fall under the direct authority of the local council. This is one way of potentially dodging some of the more extreme waiting lists – although that may end up being a trade-off against more expensive rent prices.

(3)    If you seem to be totally out of luck with finding an allotment in your local area, then see if you can gather together 5 of your friends and apply to the local authorities as a group, in order to have an allotment provided for you. Under Section 23 of the 1908 Small Holdings and Allotments Act, your local authority is obliged to do you that service (although for certain technical reasons not within London.)

(4)    If none of the above options seem to inspire you particularly, or if they all seem unrealistic from your current position, then there is one more option. Simply roam around your local area and see if you can find any deserted lots or unused spaces which seem like they could be “allotment material”. Once you’ve identified one of these spaces, find out who owns it and ask for permission to use it as an allotment space. You might be pleasantly surprised.

How To Clean Up An Allotment

1x1.trans What Do You Know About Allotments?
(Image: By Jon)

The overall condition of your chosen allotment site is something to pay special attention to before either renting  a plot or putting yourself on the waiting list for one. The basic principle is that you will tend to spend less time on a waiting list for a plot which is in a bit of a run-down state, and more time on a waiting list for a plot which is in tip-top condition.

The decision is yours to make – although you should be aware that renting any plot which is in noticeably poor condition will likely mean a big investment of your time and energy before you can actually get anything good to grow on the land.

How can you prepare an allotment? Here are the key things you should keep in mind about cleaning up an allotment in order to get it ready for some proper gardening:

(1)    Weeds can be smothered by opaque mulches, although this takes one full growing season to be effective. This option is normally a good one for cases where you can’t get the plot completely cleared up before the first growing season.

(2)    Weeds can also be tackled with systemic weed-killers, applied between Spring and Autumn

(3)    Rubble must obviously be cleared away from the plot (concrete, timber, broken glass, etc.)

(4)    Unwanted trees and shrubs are best dug out, but in cases where this isn’t possible you can chop them off at ground level and treat them with weed killer over an extended period of time until they die off.

1x1.trans What Do You Know About Allotments?
(Image: By Rjholmer)

Are You Scared Of Spiders? Maybe This Is Why

1x1.trans Are You Scared Of Spiders? Maybe This Is Why
(Image By: L. Church)

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re scared of spiders, right? Well, it turns out there’s no real shame in that. Few creatures haunt the dark and unexplored corners of the human mind quite as persistently as spiders. For many of us, the range of reactions we experience when coming into contact with these scurrying arachnids lies anywhere from “disgusted” to outright terrified.

Certain recent statistics suggest that one in three women, and one in four men, have full blown arachnophobia – which means that a good chunk of those of you reading this article are likely to fall into that category.

But why is it that spiders in the UK of all places (where the local shed-dwelling arachnids tend to be so harmless) cause so many of us to have such strong, visceral and deeply negative reactions? Is it something hidden in the mist of our evolutionary past? A culturally acquired behaviour? A sensible defence mechanism? All or none of the above?

Let’s investigate.

Evolutionary Theory

1x1.trans Are You Scared Of Spiders? Maybe This Is Why
(Image By: Glen Bowman)

One study done in order to try and unravel the mystery of our spider-terrified world, looked at a group of 118 arachnophobia sufferers and discovered that only 8 had ever had what could be described as a “traumatic” experience with these particular creepy-crawlies.

What does this mean? Well, the first and most obvious conclusion seems to be that most arachnophobia sufferers don’t develop their fear in response to a particular event, experience, or life-lesson. Instead it must come from somewhere else.

But where?

One of the most common arguments put forward in order to explain this trend is an evolutionary one – the claim that at a certain point in the misty past of our species, spiders presented a sincere and deadly threat to our ancestors, which was extreme enough that it become passed down to us via natural selection (i.e., those who were scared of spiders lived).

Psychologist Martin Seligman, writing in 1971, called this the “hypothesis of biological preparedness”. In other words, our ancestors grew to fear spiders (along with other things such as heights, darkness and snakes) as a practical defence mechanism and a way of being prepared to meet the dangers of the world in a properly “prepared” manner.

This idea was generally supported by the Slovakian biologist, Pavol Prokop, during a 2009 study which compared the opinions of spiders held by 300 South African high school children, and 300 Slovakian high school children.

As you might expect – the study revealed that the South African school children were more terrified of spiders than the Slovakian ones. An understandable thing when you consider that South Africa is home to many more poisonous spiders than Slovakia.

This might indeed suggest that the ancestors of modern South Africans passed on a more intense “biological preparedness” of spiders to their descendants than the Slovak ancestors did to theirs, but it could also just represent a here-and-now reaction to a real threat in the immediate environment of the South African kids.

On the other hand, it has also been suggested that our ancestors wouldn’t have grown to develop an inherent fear of spiders themselves, but instead of some of the various things which spiders represent. Psychologist John May of Plymouth University has suggested that spiders just happen to tick many of the boxes of evolutionarily determined human phobia. For example – their dark colours, angular legs, and quick darting movements warn us on a subconscious level that they are dangerous, unpredictable, unknown, and ultimately frightening.

Cultural Causes

1x1.trans Are You Scared Of Spiders? Maybe This Is Why
(Image: By Chun Xing Wong)

Of course, for all of those who think that we’ve evolved to hate spiders in one way or another, there are plenty of others who suggest that we learn to despise and be scared of these creatures due to our social and cultural conditioning.

Psychologist Graham Davey, at the time working at City University, London, carried out a survey on 260 British adults in order to investigate their fears of different animals. He noted that those who identified themselves as being scared of spiders were also much more likely to be scared of other insects such as slugs, cockroaches, and snails – none of which could have been a threat to our ancestors, as they are all essentially “harmless” to humans.

In his own words:

“It is unlikely that our ancestors ever had to avoid packs of predatory slugs or snails”

In his analysis, the common point among all of these fears was that the insects in question evoked a sense of “disgust”, which Davey declared to be a cultural rather than an evolutionary phenomenon.

Certainly it is true that many things which are seen as disgusting in Britain are not seen as disgusting elsewhere. Despite those British respondents who had a fear of “creepy-crawlies”, there are also cultures elsewhere in the world where slimy, squirming worms are happily eaten live as a delicacy, or where maggots are cultivated in cheese, and eaten live with it.

Davey suggested that one possible origin of the general British “disgust” at certain insects could be that they had come to be associated with disease, in one way or another, early on in the development of the culture. Either being seen as spreaders of disease, or having characteristics which reminded people of disease in some other way (for example, maggots and grubs being slimy and found in decaying meat.)

In Davey’s own words:

“In most of Europe during the Middle Ages, spiders were considered a source of contamination that absorbed poisons in their environments. Any food which had come into contact with a spider was considered infected. Similarly, if a spider fell into water that water was then held to be poisoned (Renner, 1990).”

1x1.trans Are You Scared Of Spiders? Maybe This Is Why
(Image By: Martin Hesketh)

Do You Want A Free Professional Photoshoot Worth £200?

1x1.trans Do You Want A Free Professional Photoshoot Worth £200?

At Garden Buildings Direct we believe that it’s important to show appreciation for you, our loyal customers, and to keep you guessing by finding ever more unique ways of thanking you for your support.

So, keeping that in mind – do you want a free professional photoshoot and a series of photos worth £200?

In our latest too-good-to-be-true promotion, we have decided that any of our customers who are willing to do a video or audio interview about their prized GBD shed (and how they use it in their garden), will get the incredible reward of a free professional photoshoot, anywhere in the country, along with 5 free mounted prints of their photos.

The photographs can be in any style and based on any theme that you would like – family, portrait, architectural, landscape, etc.

What’s more, our enormously talented resident photographers will personally make the trip to your location at any point during the week or weekend, in order to be as well suited to your schedule as possible

1x1.trans Do You Want A Free Professional Photoshoot Worth £200?

A professional photoshoot like this is something which many people dream of, but simply never get the opportunity to take part in for one reason or another. This is an opportunity to see yourself in a new light, to get the Hollywood treatment, or to have a series of breath-taking family shots which will stand the test of time for generations to come.

The only details that you need to submit to us in order to reap the benefit of this incredible deal, are a description of which GBD product(s) you own, your preferred date and time for the visit, and your basic contact info.

Seize this opportunity and get in touch now! This kind of offer only comes around once in a blue moon.

To enter, just use the following facebook app:

https://www.facebook.com/gardenbuildingsdirect/app_223958841111668?ref=br_tf

1x1.trans Do You Want A Free Professional Photoshoot Worth £200?

Cheer Up Your Garden During Winter

1x1.trans Cheer Up Your Garden During Winter
(Image: By Evie Apollo)

Do you find that in winter, you become easily disheartened or put-off every time you glance out of your window and gaze upon the barren landscape of what used to be your green, vibrant garden?

Fortunately, there is no rule which says that you have to submit to this seasonal gloom. There are various things that you can do in order to liven up your garden until spring arrives, and plenty of things you can do to keep your spirits up as well. So let’s take a look at some key winter gardening tips in order to breathe a bit of life back into your surroundings.

Sweet Smelling Garden Plants

1x1.trans Cheer Up Your Garden During Winter
(Image By: Alessandro Valli)

One positive way of fighting back the feeling of being in a frosty wasteland, is to tackle the issue head-on – by directly changing how your senses are stimulated every time you step outside of your front door.

For most if not all of us, certain smells and sights have a way of triggering a particular reaction and set of associated feelings. In spring we’re used to being surrounded by bright-colours and fresh, sweet odours, while in winter we’re used to being surrounded by the exact opposite.

The solution? Buy different varieties of sweet-smelling, attractively coloured plants from your local nursery or garden centre, and hang or arrange them around or near to the entrance to your garden. The act of moving through a barrier from one room or environment to another can be a very powerful psychological trigger for entering a different state of mind.

If the first thing that you encounter whenever you step into your back garden is a little piece of a spring-time scene, then it will help to set your mood on a positive track.

The exact types of plants which you may end up deciding to use for this purpose will depend primarily on your local environment and climate, as well as what your local garden centres are supplying at that time of year. As a rule, though, plants like Bush Honeysuckle, Wintersweet, Witch Hazel, and Sarcococca ruscifolia among other, tend to be a safe bet.

Winter Vegetable Gardening

1x1.trans Cheer Up Your Garden During Winter
(Image By: CIAT)

Another way to help overcome the winter blues, is to simply go ahead and do some gardening in spite of whether mother nature seems to think it’s a good idea or not.

Although most of the plants in your garden are likely to wither and withdraw during the colder months of the year, you may still be able to achieve something interesting over the winter period if you take the right measures early enough, and don’t close yourself off to the wonderful world of vegetable gardening.

The key is to sow in the autumn and to be sure to plant the right sorts of rugged vegetables which have a good chance at lasting until the next spring or summer. A good list of hardy vegetables to grow would be as follows:

 

-          Onions and shallots – Onions have a long growing season, and if planted in the autumn will still be in the ground until the following summer. Planting them will therefore add a bit of life to the normally dreary landscape of your garden during winter, but you will have to plant strategically, since the onions will still be exactly where you left them, for a while yet, once the main planting season begins in the spring.

-          Garlic – Garlic follows the same pattern as onions and, if planted in autumn, will also not be ready for harvest until the following summer. One of the big benefits for planting garlic in autumn, however, is the near-endless variety of different types available, depending on your culinary preferences. Better to get a head start on enriching your diet than to leave it too late.

-          Spring Onions – Spring onions tend to fare well in the British winter, and have a relatively speedy growing season. Planting these in autumn will mean that you are able to harvest them around early spring.

-          Perpetual Spinach – Perpetual spinach is a crop which you can reap the benefits of in a very short space of time. As a fast growing plant with a high leaf yield, you will be able to harvest it throughout the winter, and – if it’s properly tended to – for a long time after, as well.

-          Broad Beans – Planting broad beans in autumn means being able to harvest them in early spring. They establish themselves quickly after sowing and, when fully matured, can be eaten whole – plant tips included.

-          Peas – Peas come in many varieties and are a very popular vegetable in general. Planting them in autumn means being able to harvest and enjoy them up to a month before any of the latecomer gardeners who only started sowing in spring.

-          Asparagus – Asparagus is a crop for the long-term gardener with an eye on the future. They take 2 years to establish properly and become viable for harvest, but once established can grow up to 25 spears of asparagus a year, and will keep cropping continually for 25 years. If you plan on growing this vegetable, you’ll need to be willing to set aside a pretty sizeable bit of space in your garden.

-          Winter Salads – Winter salad blends can be grown in greenhouses throughout the season, and along with plants like land cress and mustard, can add a healthy dose of variety to your diet.

-          Carrots – Carrots can be sown in the garden up to July, and in a Greenhouse up to November.

-          Pak Choi – Pak Choi is rich in vitamins and nutrients can either be harvested as individual salad leaves throughout the winter, or left to mature for a more succulent and full plant and stem in the spring. It can be sown in late summer in order to transplant under cover in autumn.

1x1.trans Cheer Up Your Garden During Winter
(Image By: Don Galligan)

Garden Buildings Direct — New Product Launch

Are you looking for a great new deal on a garden shed?

Luckily for you, we here at Garden Buildings Direct have been keeping ourselves very busy and, in collaboration with BillyOh, can now proudly announce the addition of several excellent new items to our already enormous catalogue of top-quality garden sheds.

So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look:

44mm Dorset I, II and III

1x1.trans Garden Buildings Direct    New Product Launch

Our BillyOh Dorset Shed range (I, II, and III) features an already sturdy design, and is the kind of deluxe shed which can totally transform your garden, and life, if you choose to invest in it.

This shed, even in its smallest version, is enormous and with its wide double doors and large windows (perfect for optimum illumination) it has been designed specifically to serve you as an ideal outdoor den, living room, or even bedroom if the urge takes you.

This goliath garden building now comes with the optional extra feature of an “Ultimate Strength” 44mm wall – featuring 57% more timber than standard, and bound to keep you safe from the elements, from angry squirrels, or from whatever else nature might choose to throw at you at any given moment.

The Dorset Shed Range is built using a traditional interlocking timber method in order to guarantee maximum strength and durability. The Ultimate Strength 44mm wall takes this to the next level.

3×6 20 Pent Bike Store

1x1.trans Garden Buildings Direct    New Product Launch

One of the last things that any cyclist wants is to have to make the difficult choice between cluttering up their house with their bike (or several bikes, even) or leaving them outside to risk the wrath of the elements and the potential danger of theft.

For that reason, we’re pleased to announce the arrival of our 3×6 20 Pent Bike Store on the scene, the perfect storage solution – small enough to avoid crowding your garden, but large enough to comfortably fit several bikes in at once with no trouble at all.

The 3×6 20 Pent Bike Store comes with enough optional customisation features to make anyone happy. You can choose a version of the shed which has no floor, one which has a standard solid sheet floor, or even a premium groove and tongue floor, depending on your preference and requirements.

If you want somewhere safe to keep your bike accessories and cycling clothes, you can spend a bit more on the purchase and have 3 foot stacks of shelving added to the building in order to really double up on its storage value.

Other optional extras include: the ability to have the bike shed painted in a variety of different colours according to your tastes, a padlock and hasp (with a 50mm padlock protector as an additional extra) in order to put your mind at ease over the safety of your property, and many more.

20 3×8, 4×8 and 7×8 Windowed & Windowless Shed

1x1.trans Garden Buildings Direct    New Product Launch

The much loved BillyOh 20 Range – a series of extremely versatile and high quality sheds – has expanded, growing to include 3×8, 4×8, and 7×8 sizing options, in order to give you even more control over exactly how you want your shed to be and what you want it to be able to offer.

The new sizes are available for both the windowed and windowless varieties of the shed.

Designed in an attractive, rustic style, the BillyOh 20 is the kind of shed range which gives you not just a storage solution but an alpine-inspired garden ornament at the same time. Its sizing options are virtually limitless (especially after the addition of these three), and span the entire realm of garden shed possibilities.

A 3×8 can be a compact, out of the way piece of the scenery which serves to keep all of your gardening tools and spare odds and ends in one place, out of the way.

The 4×8 can act as the perfect place to keep larger equipment, boxes of belongings, paints, etc., without needing to overfill your garage or to risk cluttering up your home and creating a sense of chaos.

The BillyOh 20 7×8, on the other hand, could be used for anything ranging from an effective furniture storage solution, to a compact, stylish and unique den space.

So, what are you waiting for?

Are You Worried About Ash Dieback?

1x1.trans Are You Worried About Ash Dieback?
(Image: By Willow)

In recent gardening news, it seems that some kind of dark and malicious force has been destroying our trees across the nation and in fact, also the world.

Whether you have ash trees in your garden or are concerned about the environment in general, Ash Dieback is definitely something you should be aware of. So, how do you identify it and can anything be done about it?

Media outlets differ slightly on how to phrase or approach the topic, but everyone seems to be roughly in agreement about the fact that the issue is real, whether they choose to tell the public that our oldest and biggest trees are dying out, that trees – our life savers are dying out, or even that our trees are dying [but don’t despair, catastrophes are natural]

As is often the case with stories of this nature, it becomes difficult to tell exactly what the truth is, who and what it affects, and how worried we should be about it.

So for that reason, we’re going to take a closer look for your benefit

What Is Going On?

1x1.trans Are You Worried About Ash Dieback?
(Image: By Chris Gunns)

The first thing worth knowing is that different trees are affected by different diseases and factors. Although there are certain declines in the population of various tree groups in different areas, there isn’t anything quite like a “deadly global tree virus” doing the rounds.

In Britain, one of the key environmental issues in recent times (and the basis for a lot of news coverage) has been the Ash Dieback, specifically. A condition caused by a fungus called Chalara Fraxinea, which has already been responsible for the loss of an estimated 60-90% of Denmark’s Ash trees. The disease is responsible for leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees, and usually ends up killing the entire tree.

Young ash trees are normally killed off very quickly by the disease, while older ones are able to withstand it for longer periods of time before succumbing.

This dangerous fungus was first confirmed in the UK in 2012, where trees which had recently been sent from the Netherlands to Buckinghamshire were found to be infected. From there onwards, infected trees have been confirmed in various locations in the United Kingdom (including several which had no obvious connection to the nurseries where the condition was originally spotted).

Chalara Fraxinea is now considered and treated as a quarantine pest under national emergency measures, and it is required that all suspected sightings of the condition are reported to the proper authorities.

How To Spot Ash Dieback?

1x1.trans Are You Worried About Ash Dieback?
(Image: By Roger Griffith)

Autumn & Winter Symptoms:

-          Diamond shaped lesions on the stems of the Ash tree are some of the most clear and distinct signs that the tree has been infected. These lesions may not always appear, but when they do, it is a clear sign that the tree has been infected.

-          Discolouration of the branch stems is another trademark sign of an infected Ash tree, and will be noticeable in winter (when other signs might be harder to spot). If sections of the stem of the tree differ from their usual, healthy olive green colour, to a shade of purple or brown, this is a very distinctive sign of Chalara infection.

Spring Symptoms:

-          Although one symptom of an infected Ash tree is that its leaves will wilt rather than remain full, this is not necessarily a very reliable way of detecting whether or not a tree is affected, particularly in the Spring. Ash trees tend to take a long time to come into leaf compared to other trees, and not all Ash trees will come into leaf at an even rate, either. One way of checking whether a young tree is in good health or not, in the spring, is to scratch the bark of one its smaller branches, with your fingernail. If the branch is green underneath – then it’s healthy. If it’s brown – then it’s dead. If many of the branches of one tree seem to be dead or dying, then this is obvious cause for concern.

Is There Any Hope?

1x1.trans Are You Worried About Ash Dieback?
(Image: By U.S. Army M.W.R)

Ash dieback is incurable, and apparently unstoppable – at least at present. The official warnings are to accept the fact that we face a changing landscape today in the UK. A landscape which some would say is soon to be lost.

And yet, all might not be lost. The disease is still relatively new in the UK, and there are some reports of success in initial lab trials of treatments against Chalara Fraxinea – specifically, CuPC33, a patented treatment being developed by Natural Ecology Mitigation Ltd.

In the words of company Director, Tim Mott:

“The absolute priority is to take every step we can to avert a coming disaster for which this country is manifestly unprepared. We need to fast-track field trial licences and regulatory approval and give tree owners the right to decide if they want to fight or surrender. Regulatory approval can be an expensive process but the funds we are raising are a drop in the ocean compared with the costs we will face if our trees are allowed to die.

Today the survival of Britain’s natural environment is at a crossroads. The nature and extent of the virulent non-native tree diseases now present in the UK promises a grim future for our countryside and urban trees. The number of diseases has grown alarmingly in the last ten years and local outbreaks have now become national epidemics.”

Even if the claims of this new wonder drug prove to be a bit inflated, it is clear that investment in relevant research has increased dramatically, and that everyone is scrambling for a solution to the issue.

According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), it should at least be possible to preserve some of the UK’s most iconic Ash trees, as well as young trees in nursery environments.

Until further word arrives from the labs and officials who are busy investigating potential treatments and preservation strategies, that’s better than nothing.

How Would You Protect A Bee Colony?

1x1.trans How Would You Protect A Bee Colony?
(Image: By Louise Docker)

If you’ve been following our short beekeeping series so far, you’ve by now learned a lot of the necessary essentials in order to get started.

Even if you haven’t yet decided to take up beekeeping as a hobby, you’ve likely learned some interesting facts which you didn’t know before, right?

In this article, we’re going to move on to looking at some of the key things which you need to keep in mind once you have your bee colony set up  in your hive.

Threats To Bees

1x1.trans How Would You Protect A Bee Colony?
(Image: By Hendrik Osadnik)

The first thing to be aware of once your hive is set up and occupied is that your bees will have certain natural threats and predators which you’ll need to look out for and take precautions against.

Here are the key dangers that you should be aware of:

Mice: In summer, mice tend to steer clear of beehives – which during that season tend to be very active. In winter, though, the beehive looks warm and inviting, there is less bee activity at the entrance of the hive to ward off outsiders, and the bees themselves are less bold and active. Once a mouse has already entered the hive, the bees won’t attack as a rule, especially in their weakened state. This means that the best strategy is to stop the trespasser getting inside the hive in the first place. This can be done by trying to make the hive entrance as small as possible during winter.

Wax Moth: The wax moth won’t attack your bees, but they do enjoy the wax which your hive will be filled with, and won’t hesitate to lay their eggs in the brood comb. The real issue with this intruder is that when their larvae hatch they will eat through most of the wax inside the brood box. If you find that your hive has been infested by these larvae, you can get rid of them by putting the affected frames into the freezer overnight.

Woodpeckers: Funnily enough, woodpeckers will not hesitate to target traditional wooden hives, create a hole in the side, and eat all the honey they can get to. One obvious solution to this is to use a modern hard-plastic hive.

Wasps: Wasps are opportunistic and will be paying attention to the status of your beehive on a regular basis. If the colony is in decline, or the queen is dead or sick, wasps won’t hesitate to carry out a raid. A healthy colony will fight back and kill any invading wasps, but because wasps fly later in the night than bees, there is always a moment of weakness at night when the entrance to the hive is less well guarded. To combat this, push the frames of your brood box up towards the entrance of the hive. This means that any intruders will rouse a storm of bees as soon as they make it inside.

Inspecting Your Hive

1x1.trans How Would You Protect A Bee Colony?(Image: By Propolia)

As a new beekeeper you will probably feel tempted to check and see how things are doing inside your hive on an almost daily basis. Unfortunately, you’ll need to resist that urge for the sake of the bees, and limit your inspections to regular weekly check-ups.

These inspections should last around about 30 minutes, should be done during early afternoon on warm and still days, if possible (when many of the bees will be out gathering pollen) and should answer the following few questions:

(1)    Are there any queen cells? A queen cell is a peanut shaped cell which appears in the comb of the brood chamber when a new queen is being incubated. This is normally an early warning indicator that your bees are planning to swarm, and is definitely something that you want to take note of as early as possible.

(2)    Is the queen healthy and laying eggs? The queen is responsible for the entire fate of the hive. If she isn’t laying eggs (and if no new queens have been created in order to take over her duties) the bee population will simply no longer grow but instead go into a quick decline and die out. If there seems to be anything wrong with the queen, you need to take urgent note of this.

(3)    Is there enough pollen and honey? Bees need to eat and if you steal all of their honey away at once (especially in the winter and colder months) the colony can easily starve or at the very least go into sharp decline.

Be sure to record any notable changes in any of these categories in your notebook. Keeping clear tabs on your bees on a week-to-week basis is a great way to make sure that you don’t end up facing any nasty surprises.

Additional  Tips

1x1.trans How Would You Protect A Bee Colony?
(Image: By John Severns)

Supers:

Resist the temptation to add the supers to your hive as soon as everything is set up. Likely it will take the bees a couple of weeks to get to the stage where they’ll need the supers as extra space for producing honeycomb. If you add them long before they’re required, you just make your job harder by giving yourself more things to move around each time you open the hive to inspect, and you also create a larger volume of air that the bees will have to keep warm.

Make sure to always keep supers available in the spring and be ready to add them at a moment’s notice. Bees are extremely productive at this time of year.

In winter, leave your supers on the hive but remove the queen excluder. In the colder months, the queen and all the other bees will need to access the supers in order to stay well fed on the extra honey.

Queen:

Since keeping track of the queen is going to be a big part of what you do during your weekly inspections, it’s common practice to mark the queen on the thorax with either a marker or a special “bee sticker” this way you save yourself a lot of time and potential confusion.

Do You Want To Know How A Beehive Works?

1x1.trans Do You Want To Know How A Beehive Works?
(Image: By Jonathunder)

In our first post in this series, you learned exactly why beekeeping is a hobby you’re likely able to pursue.

In this article, we’re going to explain the basics of the beehive to you as well as looking at exactly how you get your bees to settle down into it.

Are you ready to learn something new?

Parts Of The Beehive

1x1.trans Do You Want To Know How A Beehive Works?
(Image: By Daniel Feliciano)

Beehives aren’t just any run of the mill garden accessories. They have a distinct purpose and each piece of the structure plays a crucial and specific role.

Modern beehives all have certain pieces which fit together in roughly the same kind of way. Understanding just what makes up a beehive helps you to understand more about the bees themselves, how they live and operate, and how you’ll be interacting with them.

-          Cover Board: This is a simple enough part of the design. The cover board is a board which sits on top of the hive in order to keep the bees sealed in. Normally it sits on top of the “supers”, but in winter (when the Supers aren’t on the hive) it will sit directly on top of the brood box. It’s a lid which, when lifted, allows you to reach everything else.

-          Super Frames: The supers are frames which go directly on top of the brood box, and which contain the wax structure that bees build their honeycomb on. It’s used to collect the honey which the bees will store away as food. If it’s being stocked up well enough, you can harvest it for yourself.

-          Queen Excluder: The Queen excluder is a special sheet which lies on top of the brood box, underneath the supers, and which has holes in it just large enough for the worker bees to pass through [ (which creating honey in the supers)](?) but not for the queen to pass through. The reason for this is to prevent the queen from laying eggs in the supers and turning the process of getting your honey into a difficult and drawn out ordeal.

-          Insulation: For bees to properly raise their young, not to mention survive, they need a decent and relatively constant temperature within the hive. The better your hive is insulated, the less energy the bees will have to expend trying to maintain the temperature themselves (which also means more time they’ll be spending on producing honey, and the less time they’ll be spending on consuming it.)

-          Mesh Floor: This isn’t a standard in all beehives, or a necessity, but a mesh floor is usually considered a bonus above a solid floor. The reason for this is partly that ventilation is much better with a mesh hive, which means that bees stay healthier overall, and partly that debris will tend to fall loose from the hive by itself, without the bees having to spend as much time and energy carrying it out.

-          Inspection Tray: Hives with a mesh floor tend to also come with an inspection tray, which rests under the mesh. The benefit of this is that you can see, with a quick glance, what kind of debris is falling free from your beehive (i.e. certain kinds of mites, etc.) and will then be able to make certain judgments about the condition of your hive and health of your bees at any given point.

-          Entrance: This is quite an obvious point, but every beehive needs a small entrance to enable the bees to come and go as they want. The entrance will be large enough to allow the bees to comfortably re-enter the best with their pollen, but small enough to be easily defended against any outside threats.

-          Stand: A good hive will always have a stand which elevates it off the ground – and it tends to be most convenient if the hive is elevated at about waist height (this makes it easiest to access the different parts of the hive properly). The main benefits of keeping the hive on a stand include better insulation and protection against becoming waterlogged.

How To Get Your Bees

1x1.trans Do You Want To Know How A Beehive Works?
(Image: By John Clift)

Once you’ve got your beehive, understand how it works, and have the essential equipment which you’ll need in order to begin beekeeping, then the obvious “missing link” is the bees themselves.

There are several different methods available for obtaining bees for your hive, but whichever option you ultimately choose to go for, it can’t hurt to keep a close eye on The British Beekeeping Association.

As for some of the various methods themselves:

(1)    Nucleus Hive: Your first option is to buy a nucleus hive from an established supplier, and build your way up from there. The nucleus hive is a small functional colony of about 10,000 bees, and is usually recommended as a good option for beginners. The bees can be introduced to your hive relatively easily, will be manageable at first, and their numbers will grow over time as your experience also improves.

(2)    Established Colony: Buying a full, established colony means that you get about 50,000 bees in one go. This is a good way to jump straight into beekeeping without building up a hive or spending any time getting things properly “up and running”, but is also a tough option for beginners and experienced beekeepers alike. For beginners, particularly, this isn’t a recommended option – the number of bees is likely to be overwhelming, and by going for this option as a first time beekeeper, you deny yourself a lot of the experience which comes from growing a hive by yourself.

(3)    Catching A Swarm: A swarm is what happens when a full hive of bees, including their queen, abandon their old hive in search of a new home. This is the best time to catch wild bees if you find yourself wanting to go about things that way. There are various methods for catching swarms of bees, which (since honey bees are at their least defensive as swarms, due to having no honey to protect) can even be as simple as just shaking them into a box. It’s worth keeping in mind that a full swarm of bees can weigh as much as 5kg. The downside to catching a swarm of bees is that you won’t know anything about the temperament or health of either the worker bees or the queen before you capture them.

1x1.trans Do You Want To Know How A Beehive Works?
(Image: By Scott Bauer, USDA ARS)

Think You Can’t Keep Bees? Think Again

1x1.trans Think You Cant Keep Bees? Think Again
(Image By: Ministry of Information Official Photographer)

Have you ever wanted to have a go at producing your own food? Ever thought that you might really enjoy learning an interesting and unique skill?

Well you’re not alone. There’s a rapidly growing interest in back-to-basics hobbies sweeping the nation, and it’s not necessary to spend huge amounts of money or time on tools, training and garden accessories in order to get involved, either.

In this article we’re going to take a look at one of the most straightforward and rewarding techniques that you can practice in order to properly start off down this path:

Beekeeping.

Basics:

1x1.trans Think You Cant Keep Bees? Think Again
(Image By: Brian Robert Marshall)

There are plenty of misconceptions when it comes to beekeeping. There’s the common but untrue perception that you need acres of land in order to have a hive, that you’ll have to dedicate hours a week which you can’t spare, to looking after your bees, and that setting up a hive in your garden is a sure-fire way to get the neighbours calling the police on you for being a nuisance.

Let’s take a closer look at some of those assumptions:

(1)    Space: Not only is it not true that you need to live in the countryside and have a huge garden in order to keep bees, but some would even argue that it might be better to keep them in a small urban yard, or on an inner city balcony. Not only will the bees be fine in their hive, on a small patch of ground, but they also tend to thrive in urban environments due to a large and diverse amount of available pollen and nectar nearby, which is also likely to be free from potentially harmful pesticides.

(2)    Time: If there is a number one complaint among beekeepers, it’s likely to be that they’d like to spend more time with their bees, not less. In fact, beekeeping is possibly the least demanding kind of animal-keeping. On average you can expect to spend about 30 minutes per week looking after your bees (let’s say about 30-40 hours a year). Most of the time spent with your bees will be spent checking up on them and harvesting honey. They’ll take care of themselves perfectly well at almost all times.

(3)    Neighbours: Of course, even if your bees will fit in a tight space and won’t take much of your time, you won’t want them terrorising your neighbours (or yourself, for that matter). Luckily, there are a few things that you can do to make sure that this doesn’t become a problem.

Firstly – if you’re putting your hive in close proximity to other people, make sure to get your bees from a reputable supplier and make sure that you’re choosing a breed of bees with a very mild and calm nature.

Secondly – Make sure that you direct the entrance of your beehive away from public footpaths, your neighbour’s garden, or a busy part of your own garden or property. This prevents them from deciding to use the wrong spaces as their personal highway.

 

Protective Equipment:

1x1.trans Think You Cant Keep Bees? Think Again
(Image By: Thedabblist)

So now that you’ve been given a good list of reasons why you probably can keep bees without much trouble, it’s worth giving a thought to the kind of protective equipment that you’d need in order to become a successful beekeeper without being stung on a regular basis.

The more used to working with bees you are, the more you can get away without wearing a full suit of protective gear, as a rule. For beginners though it’s strongly recommended that you kit yourself out completely. So let’s take a look at what you’ll need:

(1)    A Bee Suit: Bee suits come in various different forms. You can either buy the hood alone, or you can just buy an upper body suit, or you can buy a full body suit. Beginners are recommended to get the full body suit – something like a jumpsuit with a net hood.

(2)    Gloves: Gloves may or may not be included in a full suit, but if they aren’t – you’ll probably want to buy some. A long pair work best – the type that you can either tuck into your sleeves, or tuck your sleeves into. You don’t want bees (no matter how calm and docile they may be) crawling under your shirt by accident.

(3)    Boots: Wellies are usually seen as a good bet for keeping bees out, and as with the gloves, you’ll want to tuck your trousers into the boots in order to prevent bees from accidentally wandering into places where they shouldn’t.

Tools:

1x1.trans Think You Cant Keep Bees? Think Again
(Image By: Thefishermansdaughter)

Along with your protective gear, the other beekeeping essential that you need to have before setting up your hive, is a set of the right tools. There aren’t very many tools that you’ll need, but be sure to have them nonetheless:

(1)    Smoker: You’ve all seen pictures or videos of bees being blasted with smoke. The smoker tool is designed to let you pump thick, cool smoke into the beehive, which tricks the bees into thinking that the hive is on fire. The bees then go into a panic response of eating honey and preparing to evacuate the hive. This makes them lethargic and pre-occupied. The smoke will also interfere with the bees’ communication, so that none of them can sound the alarm and rally the other bees when you open the hive.

(2)    Hive-Tool: A “hive tool” is just a multi-purpose metal lever, which allows you to pry open the beehive (bees create a glue out of tree sap, called propolis, which can make things pretty sticky) and to also scrape clean any debris which shouldn’t be in the hive, or attached to the panels.

(3)    Notepad: This is a simple one, but you’ll want to keep a notepad along with the rest of your beekeeping gear, and take weekly notes on any changes you notice in or around the hive, or with your bees in general.

 

Our next article will take a look at just how a beehive works and how to set it up if you’ve decided to make the plunge and take up the life of a beekeeper.

Want To Win Tickets To The FA Cup Final?

Garden Buildings Direct are giving you a unique and enormous opportunity to win tickets to this year’s FA Cup Final and witness football history in the making. All you need to submit are your name and email address in order to be in with a chance at landing yourself this coveted prize. Winners will be announced on the 18th of April, the final takes place on the 17th of May. What are you waiting for? Just follow this link:

http://www.gardenbuildingsdirect.co.uk/FAcupcontest

The FA Cup Final was born from humble beginnings, over 130 years ago, on the 20th July 1871.

Back then, the FA was not yet 10 years old, the sport of football was only just beginning to become more than a casual game played by amateur clubs of friends after work, and Charles Adcock – the FA Honorary Secretary, had just had a thought which would rapidly change the sport forever.

In his words to his colleagues on that day:

“it is desirable that a Challenge Cup should be established in connection with the Association, for which all clubs belonging to the Association should be invited to compete”

The idea was a universal success with the other FA members – and three short months later it was approved and the ball was set rolling.

The first FA Cup season was held between 1871-1872, had fifteen entries (compared to the over 700 who took part this season) and the final drew a crowd of 2,000 (compared to last year’s final which drew 86,254 people) who each paid a shilling for entry.

In January 1922, the Duke of York (later to be King George VI) cut the first turf at what was about to become Wembley stadium only a short year later – the home of the FA Cup from then onwards and only replaced in 2007 by a new Wembley Stadium built for a new era of football.

It is a long and proud tradition, with the FA Cup Final being second only to the World Cup Final  in terms of football legendry. It’s the kind of event where the weight of history collides with the dynamic force of the present to make a competition of truly epic proportions.

Last year’s final saw a tense battle between Wigan Athletic and Manchester City, where both sides battled each other to a stand still for the full 90 minutes, before Wigan’s Ben Watson forever secured his name in club history, and scored a blinding 91st-minute goal, winning the cup 1-0 for the Wigan underdogs.

The year before, we bore witness to a frantic back and forth between Chelsea and Liverpool, with Chelsea’s Ramirez and Drogba scoring 2 goals to overcome the 1 by Liverpool’s Carroll.

Whatever this year’s final might hold, it will undoubtedly be a match of the highest level, in a one-of-a-kind tournament closer which every football fan should make a pilgrimage to at least once.

Luckily for you, we’re giving you a chance to do just that, for free.