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Gardening coach: March 2016

PUBLISHED: 10:47 02 March 2016 | UPDATED: 10:47 02 March 2016

Building a solitary bee hotel and place it in a sheltered south or south-east facing spot

Building a solitary bee hotel and place it in a sheltered south or south-east facing spot

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Judy Shardlow's horticultural advice for the month

This year I’m going to be doing more to support pollinators in my garden. I never use pesticides there – I work on the basis that I can live with the annoyingly industrious ants, which dig up parts of my lawn, because a stunning green woodpecker will turn up regularly to eat them. Equally, I let the aphid population flourish without reaching for the bug spray because it means the blue tits and ladybirds that I love will also flourish. It’s difficult to prove that pesticides are directly responsible for the decline in our valuable pollinators, but if the risk is there we should avoid using them.

One thing I’ve never done before is to build a bee home. It’s a collection of drilled logs, bamboo cans and pinecones which create a nesting habitat for solitary bees. As the name implies, they don’t belong to a colony or store honey, and they’re also harmless. But they do mosey around the garden doing a fantastic job of pollinating our fruit and vegetables – a single red mason bee is equivalent to 120 worker honeybees in the pollination stakes.

There are more than 200 different species of solitary bee in the UK, although many are declining in numbers at a worrying rate. I’ve been told February is the best month to put a ‘bug hotel’ in your garden. Put it in a sheltered spot facing south or south-east about one metre off the ground. Give it a try and help these wonderful creatures.

Five things to do in the garden this month

Prune early

Spring clematis (group one) should be lightly pruned after flowering to retain a good general shape.

Feed and mulch

Give large shrubs and trees a handful of pelleted chicken manure and mulch borders with garden compost or composted bark.

Wake up your dahlias

Dahlia tubers that were dug up and over-wintered indoors can now be potted up in the greenhouse.

Lift snowdrops

Increase groups of snowdrops by lifting, dividing and re-planting after flowering.

Try something new

New compact white groundcover clematis ‘Emerald Dream’ is perfect for a bank in sun or partial shade and flowers in April.

Judy Shardlow is an RHS award-winning garden designer and coach 01438 833858 heartwoodgardendesign.co.uk

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