Honeybees have short tongues, so simple, open flowers with nectaries that honeybees can reach are the plants to go for.
Have a think about what you could plant that flowers during late autumn, winter and early spring as these are the times when there isn’t much pollen around. Honeybees don’t hibernate. They cluster together to keep the queen warm and alive and they will fly on warm winter days.
Winter-flowering cherry, mahonia, snowdrops and crocus along with hazel would be good plants for bees. I have been amazed at how popular my golden marjoram and thyme have been to all sorts of bees and pollinators so get those herbs in your kitchen garden and the bees will be around to pollinate the vegetables as well.
The best flowers for bees are single, simple, open flowers allowing easy access to the pollen – don’t use blousy, showy blooms. I’d recommend perennials such as crocuses and snowdrops in the winter and spring, lavender during the summer months, and sedum in the autumn. Annuals such as calendulas, tagetes, borage and annual herbs are also beneficial.
Komatsuna is a super salad plant. You can sow komatsuna seed at any time of year under cover and plants are frost tolerant. Sow a good pinch of seed for every 40cm of row and you will get a fast crop of tasty salad leaves. Thin plants out to 15cm (6in) apart if you want to grow larger, leafy heads. The taste is fresh and leaves don’t seem to turn bitter.
Growing strawberries in 20 cm pots means that plants can be moved out of the greenhouse when they finish cropping. December is the perfect time to bring plants, and newly rooted runners, back indoors: they should have been exposed to a frost by now, which helps fruiting.
Remove any discoloured leaves and trim back to a neat centre with a healthy growing point. Tip plants out of pots and knock loose compost from the roots: this allows repotting into the same sized pot, but replenishes nutrients. Use compost rather than manure and add a scatter of potash-rich feed.
Pots can stand on a layer of manure in the greenhouse border. Plant roots will eventually push through to the manure, but only at the stage when an extra kick is needed and fruit is swelling.
SOWING & PLANTING GUIDE
GRAPE VINE: Seedless sweet dessert varieties, unless you intend to grow for wine. Plant outside the structure and train the stem in through a hole.
PEACHES & NECTARINES: ‘Lord Napier’, ‘Peregrine’. Choose a well-formed young tree to either plant in border soil or grow in a large pot.
STRAWBERRIES: Any early variety. Plant along the edges of beds or bring plants in pots undercover after they have been exposed to a hard frost.
SALAD LEAVES: Rocket, mizuna, mibuna, mustard greens. Sow in pots, or directly in drills 1cm deep, 30cm apart.
BROAD BEANS: ‘Aquadulce Claudia’. Sew directly where they will grew., 5cm deep, 15cm apart, in a double row.