The Schmitzel Bee Meadow, Part I

Part I, Getting Started

When I came off the Bee Masters Course (Click here to ready my see my article about the course), I started to look around at our urban environment with a slightly different point of view: What’s there for bees, and more in general, for pollinators. I live in Surrey, and the city has a lot of green spaces, parks and gardens. The city is proud of these spaces, and until not too long ago, its motto had been City of Parks.

Green spaces do not offer much for bees, which look for nectar and pollen. Colourful is attractive to bees, and to us. Consequently, as a beekeeper, I am trying to motivate everybody who cares to listen to plant flowery, bee friendly gardens. 

The Schmitzel ApiaryWhat about me, though? At our home, we have a flowerbed, taken care of by Brenda, a gardening friend of ours. That’s not where I keep my bees though. I have the good fortune to keep them on a spacious private property in Surrey (see Fig,1), two colonies. Around them on the property are some flowerbeds, a mini forest and lots of grass. So taking my own advice, I asked if I could transform part of the grass-land (see fig. 2) into a bee friendly flower meadow. I got a go ahead and excited.

Schmitzel Bee Garden, GrasslandNow I am not a gardener, as in that I have a thorough understanding on how to convert a piece of lawn into a Surrey based alpine meadow with lots of flowers. I do however know that I can buy a bee-mix of flower seeds at West Coast Seeds in Ladner, that seeds have to get into contact with dirt, and that Home Depot rents equipment for the enthusiastic gardener. I also enlisted the help of Brenda. Both of us had not tackled a project like this.

Now this is the point, where I encourage you, the sympathetic reader, to join with your advice. Our Facebook page would be a good place to leave us your tips.

So we made a plan: Get a power rake, rake the moss out, get the seeds, get a power-seeder, then seed. The logic behind this was that once we get the moss out, soil would show and the power-seeder would put the seeds in deep enough.

The Schmitzel Bee Garden, MossWell, the power rake was a good idea (see Fig 3). We took a few truckloads of moss out. But, at the end of it, not all that much soil looked through. When we got the seeds and looked at the power seeder, we had a hunch that this might not be the greatest tool. These seeders are made for grass seeds, and our flower seeds were way too small and light. Also, the seeder cuts into the soil, but does not expose it. Our little seeds would have sat on either grass or moss patches and would have dried up.

We needed more drastic measures and considered two options: To get in topsoil and distribute it over the lawn, or to get a rototiller. The topsoil option would have meant that we bring in 26 yards of soil, for a 1/4inch cover. This translates into about 17 small (F150) truckloads, with a turnaround time of about 2 hours each (from pick-up to distribution), when working with 2 people. We could have had a second truck, but could not come up with six people to get it done faster. 

So we got the rototiller. Now, once we mastered its operation, this machine turned things upside down (fig. 4). Soil came to the top. This, to us seemed good enough to seed.

We mixed the seeds with three parts of sand, according to a tip from Mark at West Coast Seeds and my gardener friend distributed it evenly over our field.

Of course, patient as I am, I expected to see germination action the next day, but was patiently informed that nature does not work that way. So this is where the hard part for me starts, waiting.

You however, my sympathetic readers, may use the time to teach me on how I should have done it properly …Schmitzel Garden: Rototill