Tomato banner

This summer, Sussex University Scientists are looking for volunteers with gardens in Brighton & Hove, who have time to look after 2 or 3 tomato plants for a month around July (which we will provide). This is a new experiment this year, where we are hoping to look at if growing ‘bee-friendly’ flowers (or any flowers, really) close to crop plants can improve their harvest.

Many of you will have heard of the idea of 'companion planting' – growing non-crop plants, herbs or ornamentals near to veggies or fruit, often in the hope of distracting pests, or providing something for plants to climb, or shade. You may also have seen the RHS Perfect for Pollinators lists (and other similar lists), giving advice on which flowers are best to grow to support bees and other friendly bugs in your garden.

We’re interested in where these overlap. Would we be better off with vegetables in the flowerbed (or flowers in the veggie bed), or are some companions not-so-friendly?

What we’re looking for:

Gardens in Brighton & Hove, with:

1) An area of flowering ornamental plants. Flower beds or pots, either way is fine, as long as there will be flowers there in July.

2) A ‘pollination neutral’ area; so, a patio, or decking, or the middle of a lawn, where there are very few flowers. Somewhere a tomato could be put that is at least three metres away from the flowering areas (up by the back door would do).


3) A mostly vegetable-growing area, separate to the flower beds.

Tomato placements
Areas we're looking for, left to right: No flowers, flowerbed, vegetable bed.

What we will do:

1) In June we will do a first visit, so we can take photographs of the spaces and see what sort of flowers are in bloom. If you know what they are and can help us ID things, that would be great – but don’t worry if not, that’s what the photos are for!

2) In July we will bring campus-grown tomato plants in containers to the site, one for each of the areas described above. These will be in large (3-5 litre) pots, and need to be left to the attentions of local pollinators for a month.

3) In August we will take the tomato plants back to the University campus, so we can keep them isolated, and see how many tomatoes have been pollinated in the month they were in your garden.

What we’d like from you:

1) Access to the garden, while you are at home, and permission to take the photographs. Visits will be arranged to be at the most suitable time for you. If we could do a couple of short bee-activity counts while we are there, that would be useful too.

2) Keeping an eye on the tomatoes. Depending on how many gardens we get taking part, it might be difficult for us to get there for watering quite as frequently as the plants might need in hot Brighton summers – so if you could keep an eye on the plants and make sure that they are watered that would be extremely helpful!

That’s it!

If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please let us know. There is a sign-up form below, or you can email / contact Linda Birkin directly.

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