Members adventures in the Vegetable Patch all year round
You are so lucky to live in a bird of prey conservation area!
Kestrels are quite small, also easily recognisable from their distinctive hovering over prey (of course if it wasnt hovering you may not recognise it!). Red Kites are surprisingly small when they are perched - their tail is very long but it's only when they fly off and you can see the full wingspan and tail length that you recognise them. We have tons of them round where I live, they are always over our garden and they nest up at the allotment so I get to watch them a lot. They are fascinating birds. Here's a photo of one flying over our garden:
Birds of prey are amongst my favourite birds. Haven't managed to snap any decent pics of the buzzards round here, and the sparrowhawks are always perched on fence posts whenever I'm in the car but nowhere to be seen when I'm out with the camera!
Sorry LL, we've hijacked your diary
Alpha chick to: Dorian Grey, Pokey, Smudge and Coco
Chief servant to Marley the cat
Remembering Weeps, Rexie, Sage, Cassie, Toffee, Captain Gabby, Commander Nugget, Ronnie, Juno, Special Poetry and Reading Casper, Tigger, Tophenanall Rembrandt, Chestnut, Tiddly, Willow and Mango
Also my lost furries Charlie and Jasper
Wow. My garden is an overgrown wilderness so I sometimes see birds of prey & owls from my kitchen window (and once an imprint of an owl that had flown into it). I've had a buzzard and a long-eared owl on the washing line. (Perched, not hanging, and not both at once)
sorry I've not replied earlier ... my broadband router at home has died so for now catching up at work.
My friend seems to think it more likely a Sparrowhawk as she often has them visiting her garden (she lives about a mile away from the Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottingham where there are some sparrowhawks. I live about 5 miles away from my friend) Meanwhile, I've just watched a fascinating youtube of one hunting in a garden (see attached) In the video it swoops inbetween hedges and trees and flies quite low to the ground in woodland, all of which look similar in my garden in miniature (such as when my bird flew between the hazel and willow which is a very small gap)
As I mentioned before, I really only saw its back before it turned its head and looked at me before dropping down off the trellis fence, but having looked at photos of kestrels and kites, they don't quite fit and I'm inclined to go with the Sparrowhawk suggestion.
Not at all, I was so wowed seeing one in my garden so I'm only too happy to find out more, thanks
I've not ventured into the garden since my last post of Sunday 27th October. Suffice to say, along with quite a lot of others we have had flood problems but fortunately, my property has been fine. This was last Friday's flood warnings:
Even the little River Erewash (usually just a stream in Stapleford near where I live) was worryingly high. I hadn't realised how close the river was (it literally is just a little stream) until now (less than 1/2 mile) and there isn't that much elevation between my property and the top of the river bank ...
Putting the covers over the pond has been the best thing I could have done as they protected it from most of the rain and risk overfilling but the crates with the pond plants on the garden table are once again filled up (I had completely emptied all the crates the last time so this latest is the rain in the past 3 weeks) So not surprising I didn't want to venture outside, and now it's freezing cold. If I'd still got the chickens or the dog I'm sure it would be different as they always came first. Meanwhile, there's something about this autumn that makes me feel we are in for a cold winter.
And because of avoiding the outdoors if I could, the compostables were building up in the house and although not smelly were starting to look like a health hazard so this morning at dawn I was out wading through all the autumn leaves to the compost bin. The contents of the composter are settling but it's clear that the composting process is slowing down as once again my raw materials filled it to the top. I think I'll have to invest in a second composter to cope with further compostable material until spring.
I didn't have time to look about and assess the garden this morning but in the past few days as I've opened the back door to check on the fish and pond, I can just about now see not only the white painted bottom fence but also the corrugated roof over the pergola! It's quite a lovely sight actually and I'm looking forward to finishing it off. Just goes to show how much foliage fills up my garden and cuts the light out. I did have a worrying moment on Saturday when I received a notice from the council about a property seeking planning permission to build a 2 storey building - the property at the bottom of the garden was on the same street as the letter and I immediately jumped to conclusions about the reason why the ultra high fence was erected. I checked online to see the plans and panic over, it is a property at the front of the house which, providing they follow the plans to the letter, in no way affects me.
Worth writing back to say that you don't object now but might if they change anything. And keep an eagle eye when they start building - my friend has a house opposite them building an extension. Plans showed it at the back of the site, but the footings were put in at the front, where it would have overlooked them. They managed to get things stopped; the builder just said 'oh, the plans have been changed', but the council haven't been told, and acted (might have help that she was a parish councillor).
My house faces their hedge / driveway gate at the bottom of the property as their garden length runs along my street while their front door is actually on the adjacent street. So for the extension to be that far down the garden to the gate, I think it would be very noticeable and the house opposite me that shares the boundary would definitely have something to say (he used to have a building business before he retired so he'd know all about planning permission and the regulations!)
My main grievances will be all the vans (and presumably skips) parked on the street (it's been bad enough with them just doing the house up when they bought it) and working late at night (they seem to start work at about 7 pm for a couple of hours which I probably wouldn't be bothered about in summer but in winter with dark evenings, it doesn't feel right)
I sympathise with the noise and disruption element but suppose, though, that the sooner they get it done the sooner it's all over. If they do it in the winter then it means you can enjoy being out in your garden when the better weather comes.
I know what you mean about looking out and enjoying the view. Sometimes the roses shove themselves under your nose to be smelled!
.... I'm not so convinced that whoever will be doing it will get it done soon - they have been doing renovations on the property since it was sold in spring (like double glazed windows, heaven knows what else indoors but it seems never ending)
Anyway, after my 19th November post, I actually managed to get into the garden yesterday Sunday) and do some work. Not exactly gardening but just tidying up. It rained most of Saturday (I think - I had more or less resigned myself to a tv fest and catch up and had an exhausting day laying about doing nothing so hadn't looked out of the window for a while) but it was a bit of a shock to find it wasn't raining on Sunday.
First thing - rescue the pond plants out of the crates that were once again filled to the top with water. We'd had a deep frost earlier in the week and many plants like the dahlias were damaged and dying back, but I couldn't be sure if the pond plants were naturally dying back like the rest of the garden or simply just dying from drowning. I took all the baskets out of the crates and put them into trays instead - should we continue to get more rain, the baskets won't be drowning this time.
Then it was a venture into the garden - my wildflower flower bed was another hit by the frost and the tall Cosmos were a slimy mess flat on the floor. I tried pulling them but forgot I'd put bean/pea netting over the soil to stop the cat from digging holes and now have the problem of untangling everything ... it seemed like a good idea at the time when I had planted the germinated sweetcorn to keep the cats off, but not so clever to then throw the flower seeds around afterwards. With other jobs to do, it didn't seem a priority so I abandoned it for another (hopefully, rain-free) day.
What I really wanted to do was rake all the leaves off the membrane and patio into the beds (i) if I left them, they'd start rotting on the floor and become a mushy mess and (ii) as part of my carbon sequestration to build up humus in the garden soil by using the leaves as mulch. The garden rake went surprisingly well - there's still some leaves on the fruit trees and surprisingly still loads on the hazel but now all the fallen leaves and rotting / pecked fruit have all been moved on to the fruit tree bed, rose bed and the jasmine bed. As I raked, I was reminded that it was exactly a year ago when I started looking into carbon sequestration in the garden and applying some little things which are now part of my gardening. When I was planting my seedlings in the late spring / early summer, I was amazed at just how much loamy the soil felt compared to it being potter's clay when I first moved into the house - and I'm convinced that is due to the regular mulching using autumn leaves and spent compost.
I finally cleared the last of the hedge trimmings from last winter that I had left near the apple trees (I had moved all the trimmings from what was to become the sweetcorn/wildflower in spring and most had ended up on top of the big trimmings pile but a small pile was left by the apple trees for when I had more time) So all I have to clear now are the trimmings that are left at the very bottom of the garden (again, ran out of time as you might remember we had a very mild February when I panicked that the birds would start nesting before I cut the hedge down so the emphasis was to keep on trimming, and then we had an Easter weekend that was more like a roaring June day and loads to start planting and sowing hence the abandonment)
My DIY polytunnel cover has broke - the damage looks odd as though something heavy had landed on it and torn an 18 inch diameter hole in the plastic roof cover ... if it had been rain water pooling, the sheer weight of water would have pulled the sides up as they are only held on with a bit of tape but this was clearly a hole and yet the scaffold netting was fine (I wondered about maybe a firework landing on it) Bit of a mystery. As for the gazebo, I am pleased and disappointed at the same time. Pleased to find it is still standing up and held together but disappointed that it is far from weatherproof. Before I went for a break, I looked at my "algae farm" hanging on the chicken run netting and decided to empty the jars - I think the frost had most likely caught them or they had simply exhausted the nutrients in the water or down to poor lighting as hardly any had that in-your-face green colour. So the jars were emptied into the wildflower bed more out of convenience than any other reason. I will get some fresh Chlorella algae culture next year (I'm sure I've seen it on ebay most years)
However, the break turned into watching 2 films and having lunch before venturing back out to rake the leaves on the patio. First I had to take the scaffold netting off the pond to knock the leaves off, then I started to rake most of the leaves to crate up and take down into the garden and toss on to the fruit tree bed. I also cleared the leaves on the steps and between the chicken runs, then tried to "fix" the chicken roof guttering so that rainwater actually emptied INTO the water butt that I had bought in September ... truth is, I really need to empty the water butt and try to re-position better because currently the water from the gutter is missing it entirely and I don't think I've fixed it at all (with the amount of rain we've had, I should have filled 4 water butts if not more but currently this one is only 2/3rds full which I think is just water collected from the rain itself that had landed on it!)
And finally, I decided to lift up the dahlia tubers. Although the top part of the plants were killed by frost, I was sure the tubers would be fine providing I lift them up before winter sets in proper. Most tubers were the size of my thumb pad and each plant had up to 10 decent sized tubers and some sprouty things. The tubers look small compared to one I was given a few years ago that looked more like a large sweet potato - maybe it's because it is their first year so the tubers are small or maybe with growing them in pots has stunted them, or it could be the variety "Dandy" means small? The soil/compost round the roots were quite a large clump so I decided to rinse them first (one of the half filled pond plant crates) and then would let them air dry before thinking of wrapping in paper and storing to avoid mould and rot. It was nearly night fall when I finished lifting and washing so just left the crate outside (one of those collapsible crates with plastic mesh sides so no risk of the tubers sitting in water) with good intentions of moving it under cover the next day only to find it raining heavily this morning when I went outside Oh well, I might try to move them to under the shed roof where its drier and try again.
Next weekend is forecast "dry" but anything can happen between now and then so I'll wait and see before making plans.
LL you make me exhausted just reading your posts
as always your diary is always the one i go to when i want a good read on my phone
The Pink Ladies..Audrey,Ingrid-Bergman,Georgia,Madeleline,Norma-Jean,Dora & Janice
Vorky ,Blueped,Ginger,Ninger &Linky
Sunny Clucker was ere July 12-21 2012
Sunny Clucker was ere July 6 2016 to Sept 9th 2017
Sunny Clucker is here , rehomed Aug 18th 2018/
I haven't done much in the garden since my last post - the other weekend I managed to do another rake of the leaves off the membrane especially as the hazel decided to drop all its leaves AFTER the last clear up. The blackbirds were very helpful tossing all the leaves back on to the membrane. I managed to clear the cosmos off the sweetcorn / wildflower bed and tossed them on to the fruit tree bed to rot down along with the dead chilli pepper and aubergine plants from the polytunnel & glass greenhouse. The dead tomato plants on the other hand were a powdery mass of decay which I didn't want to touch without wearing some sort of face mask. I'll empty the used growbag contents on to the beds later after I've put cardboard down so should help to hold it down during windy weather (all about additional mulching and water retention)
I haven't ventured in the garden since other than to keep an eye on the pond - last weekend I decided to check all was well and was surprised to find the fish were waiting for food despite much chillier temperatures. Normally I would clear the debris from the pump grille on a daily basis during summer as the fish regularly eat the duckweed leaves but not the roots which become trapped in the pump but of course in winter, most pond plants die off so I haven't needed to, and the scaffold netting holding the cover down is a nuisance having to take it on and off to reach the pump. The corrugated covers muffle the sound of water from the biofilter landing on the pond surface but it sounded less noticeable so I decided to check and there was some gunk which I cleared. The next morning ... no sound of water at all only to discover the hose from the pump to the filter had fallen off and the end was at the deepest part of the pond. The only way to retrieve it was to take all of the covers off to where the hose entered the filter and lift it up there and work my way along until I reached the pump on the other side of the pond. The pump meanwhile had been working regardless but instead of lifting the water up to the filter was simply flowing straight back out in the pond at the floor level and all the disturbed litter found its way into the pump. So not only did I need to reconnect the hose but the pump needed to be switched off for a few hours while I cleaned it out (also, I have learned that the electrics need to "cool off" before switching back on - because it is running 24 hours a day, the interruption to electricity causes the fuses to blow when turned back on soon after) It doesn't seem to have done the fish any harm and everything is back to normal and working again.
Meanwhile I have been planning some new projects .... this past year as part of my "new year's resoltuion", I have made an effort to be more "climate friendly" in the garden although to be fair, some of the things were already in place due to the neglect when I had the allotment plot, but I have also tried a few mini projects like the vertical garden (Busy Lizzies in the plastic bottle stack) and cultivating algae (for carbon sequestration on a very mini scale to be used as a biofertilizer in the beds), growing a lot more flowers for bees as well as a big effort in composting, mulching and growing some of my own veggies. This year the plastic problem and decline in insect numbers & diversity had been highlighted so I took these on board and started collecting plastic packaging to make ecobricks for garden projects (still in the "planning" stage but think I may have enough now to go ahead - to be revealed when completed) and looking at how to improve insect populations & diversity.
My garden although seems big is really just a pinprick on the landscape so I can only do so much but I do feel that with being pesticide and herbicide free as well as all the other things I've done (the trimmings pile, composting, mulching, some wildflowers and so on) that it has helped but more needs to be done but on a slightly grander scale. And that is the plan for next year - more wildflowers. This time I've done a lot more research to learn about the native wildflowers of the area where I live and will try to incorporate some of these into my garden. There is the risk that some of them self seed so readily that they might end up as "weeds" but I am looking farther afield. Guerilla gardening - in my case, some selected seed bombing as I don't have time to tend to flower pots in urban sites for others to vandalise.
Google "seed bombs" and you'll find no end of information of how to make papier mach ones or clay balls but before getting excited, they are not what they are cracked out to be. Most involve a water based mix which not surprisingly, starts off germination so can only be made just prior to seeding, secondly many have way too many seeds which means they all germinate and crowd each other out. Thirdly, randomly throwing seed bombs around mean many end up on compacted surfaces like concrete and cannot put roots down or there are established plants already growing so seedlings will be at a disadvantage. The weather also plays a role - seeds need water to germinate and rain to encourage them to grow quickly so tossing the bombs on a warm dry spring day with no forecast rain means the clay based ones in particularly are at risk of drying out too much. Finally, site selection is all important - choosing areas which are less likely to be disturbed so plants can become established but also not competing with other plants and of course, is not going to upset anyone by landing accidentally in their garden.
At the moment I am designing some different types of seed delivery which I still need to test to see how they perform but I'm hopeful they will work as intended. My current design looks a lot like a shotgun cartridge (seriously, they have approximately the same dimensions of length and diameter) - a tube made of thin flexible card (which was destined to be binned so I'm "reusing" it - it is a buff colour so should blend in with normal garden litter) which is held together with paper glue ... the idea is that when the bomb is "tossed" (I'm still rethinking that idea and maybe "careful siting" and "partial-planting" might be better so they have a better chance of growing to maturity), the card will protect the contents until it gets wet (depending on the weather, I might have to consider wetting it first - again, all part of the testing to be done to see what happens) I'm hoping the outcome is that the card & contents (seed + compost mix) will swell on soaking up water, the paper glue will give way allowing the card to spread open and the seeds can then germinate freely while the card rots away. To help ensure water can seep through the card, I scored lines down the length with a Stanley knife (the scores only cut through the outer part of the card but hopefully will allow water to be soaked up more easily)
As for the seeds, I may have gone a bit overboard but at least there is a wide variety to cater for different habitats. Some require full sun, some part shade, some need wet or damp clay conditions while others prefer drier and sandier. Most are familiar locally - I've come across Viper's Bugloss, Teasel, Purple Loosestrife, Ox-eye daisy, Betony Stachys, Corn Red Field Poppy and Foxglove on my walks in the area. I was very particular to get seeds that are UK based as I was a bit disappointed with the wildflower seed mix I grew in my garden this year which were more US than UK varieties.
My second mini project for next year - to try my hand at growing houseleeks (Sempervivums) They are alpine type succulents that grow into rosettes close to the ground and often grown in rockeries and roof gardens. I was thinking of the vertical garden idea using the stack of plastic bottles like I did with the Busy Lizzies but adapt it to grow the houseleeks instead which (i) can tolerate dry conditions (ii) are perennial so all year round.
So it may not be gardening weather but I'm still thinking ahead.
You must be joking. Too much water being retained here.
Yes I know we could be in a drought next, but the last 2 years have been SO wet
Well yes, it's very wet here too especially as it's now winter so nothing's growing - perhaps I should expand on what I meant. There's more to mulching than just dumping something on top to smother weeds but also about planning for the future. Providing my garden is not subjected to a flooding (like a burst mains pipe or river bank which is out of my control), it will cope with the wet weather and gradually drain off / retain some until needed. If my garden was say, completely paved, all that excess rain water instead of being soaked up and managed by the additional organic material over the years, would run off further downstream and be someone else's flooding problem instead (although flooding can be due to exceptional weather patterns, paving/roads and straight uninhibited run off from cities straight into rivers is known to be a probable cause of making flooding more likely)
As I have 12 trees on one side of the garden (along with the neighbour's huge bay tree close to the fence) and privet / elders + the other neighbour's monstrous ash tree on the other side, my entire garden what was once lawn is covered in tree roots, so much of the water in the soil will be taken up eventually. Last year's drought stressed many trees round here but apart from some self pruning fruit loss, my garden actually did okay and I think the key is mulching & retaining water in the soil. Likewise, this year's wet weather throughout summer and autumn have not caused flooding in the garden because the mulch has a new role of soaking it up.
Before the garden rescue last year and the decision to go "climate friendly", I had always mulched the fruit tree bed - first it used to be the end of life compost from potted plants, used growbags along with the dead plants like the chillies, the occasional grass cuttings when I used to have a lawn, the soiled chicken bedding with the aim of improving the soil quality from what was heavy clay. What makes it different this time round is that before, I had been doing it without realising I had been encouraging the soil to form humus which is key to tolerating extreme weather (wet or drought) and the uptake of carbon and preservation of nitrogen in the soil. Humus is more than organic rich soil / compost and is built up by layering (a natural occurrence for example in woodlands when leaves over years build up) - it helps to improve drainage as well as retain water and all the essential minerals from the decomposition. Link to Wikipedia and a link about The importance of mulching. So back to the:
the cardboard will act like a sponge so short term, reduce "flooding" as well as retain soil nutrients from being washed away, and by spring and warmer weather, the soil quality will be improved with the capacity to release / retain water as needed.
I should have done this before the New Year 2020 but with being busy over the festive period and decluttering the house before the new lodger arrives, it's not been high on my list. So here goes:
1. Growing garlic in pots was a failure, shallots on the other hand were fine. I suspect the problem may have been poor fertile soil (I used a mix of old compost/soil), watering (it was very warm & dry in early-mid spring) and very little direct sunlight.
2. Rescuing the polytunnel with a makeshift plastic cover and scaffold netting worked really well - the cover kept the potato plants dry during what was a wet and cool summer (ideal blight conditions) while the netted sides allowed better ventilation during the very warm (record breaking) temperatures. I erected raised beds using old cold frames and using tape to strengthen the sides for the potatoes and I used old timber (past its best from the pergola) and breeze blocks I already had in the garden for an onion bed, and filled them all with soil from the wildlife pond dig on top of card/paper from the house as part of my carbon sequestration project. In the other polytunnel, I raised trays off the ground and put growbags in them. Apart from the plastic cover and some fresh compost & growbags, everything was constructed from materials I already had at hand.
3. The polytunnel veggies were mixed but mostly good despite the whitefly infestation on the aubergine & chillies and being late with supporting the tomato plants. Growing basil and French marigolds thereafter kept the whitefly down. Even though I only harvested one aubergine fruit, I consider this a success when compared to previous attempts to grow aubergine! Potatoes were mixed sizes all due to the variation in light levels (good light = big potatoes, poor light = very small) but most importantly, all the potatoes were totally blemish free which I was very happy about. Onions on the other hand were a total failure - definitely a light issue as that end of the polytunnel got very little once the leaves on the trees burst.
4. Growing flowers in the garden was one of my 2019 targets to attract more insects - insect numbers are known to be dropping globally and some species disappearing due mainly to pesticides, climate change and serious loss of habitat through monoculture farming methods (growing one species of crop over large areas reduces diversity of plant life and thus insects that feed on them, which in turn would affect other wildlife that rely on them for food) If everyone with a garden provided a wildlife zone with some native wildflowers and stopped unwittingly using pesticides, this could go a long way to helping insect numbers thrive. Bees in particular are known to be at a crisis point so I made a point of growing some wildflowers - I sprinkled a seed mix on what was supposed to be the sweetcorn bed to have a "polyculture" (that is, mixed growing of flowers and crop) However, apart from the warm Easter week when all the fruit trees were in blossom, I saw very few bumble bees compared to previous years although the number of hoverflies were on the up. On the patio grown in troughs and big plant pots, the Sweetpeas and Dahlias from seed did very well but I was especially pleased with my vertical Busy Lizzie flower garden made from plastic bottles.
5. Veggies in the garden didn't do so well - a dismal courgette harvest (a total of 2 out of 5 plants!), a not so clever winter squash crop, and only 5 out of 35 chitted sweetcorn germinated. I suspect light levels were too low (making it unattractive to pollinating insects) even though the plants themselves looked heathy , a wet summer prevented pollination and the late spring frost soon after sowing the sweetcorn seed was responsible for the poor germination.
6. Projects in the garden were all part of the carbon sequestration (capture) idea - in particular, climate friendly gardening so not using electricity but all by hand (loppers & pruning saw), not burning hedge or wood trimmings but using them in piles (attract insects, slug/snails/frogs) to naturally rot down (and increase localised soil carbon). Mulching was also very high on the list - initially to cover bare soil to prevent nutrients leeching out during wet weather (and reduce CO2 and nitrous oxide emissions) but proved to be excellent at promoting loamy soil on what was heavy clay. Materials used included soiled chicken bedding, autumn leaves and used compost from containers. Composting in particular was to direct "food waste" (or in my case, fruit & veg peelings) from going to landfill, as well as card and paper from kitchen use, grocery shopping and mail - I could have put most of these into the recycle bin but the aim was to see them as a resource rather than as waste and so by reducing my bin waste, it also reduced the need to be emptied frequently (unfortunately didn't save on fossil fuel as the refuse collection was fixed for the neighbourhood and out of my control) I found however that I didn't produce enough green material (nitrogen source) for the compost bin so looked at ways of supplementing it - as I'm trying to be more "organic" and taken an interest in permaculture techniques, commercial fertiliser was not an option but using (fresh) urine proved to be very effective (as well as being free and sustainable, and didn't smell!) Further research indicated that diluted urine watered directly into the garden beds was also a good alternative to fertiliser. The Algae project was a very small (microscopic) way of capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air (algae along with trees has the potential to take up a lot of carbon dioxide to help reverse climate change, providing this is done alongside reduction in using fossil fuels) I used glass jars to grow the algae, and harvested it weekly (basically tipped most of it into a watering can then added fresh tap water to the dregs in the jar to grow on) The algal water collected was either watered directly into the soil or into the compost bin. Research on using algae as a biofertilizer has a lot of potential to increase soil carbon (the algae are eaten by microscopic insects and worms ingest them which helps them to grow and multiply (a living soil) while the dead remains and poop act as fertiliser for plants and trees to take up. Thus the CO2 from the air is converted to stable carbon in the soil. Another project was watercress grown from leaves out of the fresh salad section in supermarkets - the idea is that watercress competes for nutrients in water and prevents algal blooms (particularly in fish ponds which can be fatal) I'm hoping for a future project where waste water from sinks in the house can be redirected and collected for gardening projects - to ensure the collected dirty water doesn't go off (smell like sewage) during storage, the watercress idea is part of a bigger (natural rather than chemical) picture of cleaning it. More research to be done ...
7. The planned wildlife pond was scuppered when the neighbour at the bottom of the garden replaced the fence with a much taller new one and radically reduced light levels (my garden being south facing) - this would impact on plants and algae growing which are essential foods for insects and tadpoles as well as reduce attraction (most insects will fly over water which is in sunlight) After painting the fence white to help reflect light, I had the idea of converting the pergola into a gazebo by erecting a clear plastic roof over the top and butted up to the fence to protect it from weathering. The pond idea would still go ahead but I would raise the pond height slightly and also extend some of it onto the pergola floor which got some direct sunlight. Rather than purchase materials (other than the pond liner), the walls of the pond would be made from ecobricks (bottles packed tight with non-recyclable plastic bags and wrapping) I also purchased a number of pond plants in anticipation of the wildlife pond being completed - I finally got some pond compost/sand and baskets and repotted most and even managed to split some of them so I had more which could also be grown in the fish pond planter. And oh yes, the highlight of the year was the sight of a bird of prey in my garden while I was inspecting the converted pergola - most likely a sparrowhawk as it landed on a little trellis fence barely 5 or so feet from where I was standing.
8. The fish pond surprised me in spring when I discovered 3 baby goldfish that were probably from last year's spawning and survived the winter but more importantly, there were also no losses of other fish over the winter. The winter before had been a steep learning curve and I put several things into place in the late autumn including covering the pond surface with corrugated plastic sheets (helped to keep water heat in for longer, kept leaf and seed litter from entering the pond as well as reduce/prevent rain water from filling the pond which not only messed with the water pH, it also raised the water level much higher than the pond was intended) I had also part buried + insulated the 200L biofilter drum - I think these all helped to prevent the same disaster though mostly likely it was due mainly to a milder autumn and winter than was experienced in the winter of 2017/2018. All the fish have grown - the baby goldfish were about an inch in spring are now easily 2 inch long (the "black" one also turned orange during the autumn months so more easily seen than before), most of the adult goldfish are now about 8-9 inch in length while the 2 koi from 2018 are nearer to 10-12 inch. There was a new addition to the pond - I bought a golden yellow koi which settled in very quickly.
9. Finally the weather - 2019 will be remembered for the extraordinary Easter week weather of sun and rising temperatures and prospect of another drought year as everything needed a lot of watering particularly the containers. I especially remember being in the garden when all the apple and pear blossom were out and the fragrance was nothing like I'd experienced before, and the sound of bees in the trees as they visited the flowers was so loud. But then May temperatures really tumbled. I also remember the rain the most - I could never got on with some jobs in the garden because it was wet especially in June. July however, also saw soaring record breaking temperatures - I remember driving to work at 8.00 am and the temperature outside was already 24oC with a forecast of 36+oC. My thermometer at home indicated it had got a lot hotter on the patio as the sun baked the brickwork making it too hot to sit outside even when the sun had long passed to the front of the house. Alas, my last chicken Scary who had up until that point done well for a 6 year old girl and layed eggs all through spring and seemed fine finding herself the only chicken left out of the flock, never recovered after that hot day despite making sure she had shade (the run was mainly netted so plenty of ventilation), providing some foods high in juice and plenty of water to keep her hydrated. She stopped eating and drinking and passed away soon after so ended my chicken keeping. The weather thereafter seemed to oscillate between cool and wet with a final heatwave over the August bank holiday weekend which knocked my gardening plans (I really cannot work in very hot conditions) followed by rain when I was on annual leave with plans to paint the fence and build the wildlife pond (which I then decided to put a roof on the pergola instead)
So a mixed year gone by, lessons learned and with plans of new projects to start up in 2020!
Following on from my previous post, I have been thinking about plans for the garden this year.
1. Wildflowers - as already mentioned, this will be a combination of flowers in the garden as well as a little bit of "guerilla gardening". Seeds purchased include:
- Goats Rue (Galega officinalis)
- Iris Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus) ... thinking about my wildlife pond plant plans
- Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris)
- Ragged Robin (Silene flos-cuculi)
- Lady's Bedstraw (Gallium verum)
- Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)
- Ox eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
- Corn marigold (Glebionis segetum)
- Ammi Majus Bishops flower (wild carrot)
- Corn Red Field Poppy (Flanders) (Papaver Rhoes)
- Betony Stachys Officinalis
- Purple Loosestrife Lythrum Rosy Gem
- Corncockle (Agrostemma Githago)
- Wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum)
- Corn chamomile (Anthems Arvensis)
- Vipers Bugloss (Echium vulgare)
2. Garden flowers
I was very pleased with the dahlias last year that I have (i) saved the tubers so will see if they survive the winter & grow next year but I still have plenty of seed left if necessary (ii) also purchased 2 other types: Pompone double mixed (round ball shaped with tight curled petals) and Cactus hybrids (sort of thin raggedy shaped petals like star bursts)
And I was very pleased with the plastic bottle vertical garden so will once again do the same but hopefully on a bigger scale and grow the same Busy Lizzie "Baby Series Mix".
I also got some Nasturtium seeds (Empress of India) which I want to try and grow on top of the trimmings pile but we'll see first how that goes. Leaves and flowers are edible so they will have a dual purpose, not to mention attract blackfly ... and hopefully attract some of their predators like ladybirds.
I had already got the Foxglove seeds before I had decided to adopt Lucas the cat from the animal shelter so I might have to reconsider growing them in the garden now as they are highly toxic (digitalis poisoning) if ingested.
Last year I was a little disappointed that what I thought was Love in a Mist was in fact Cosmos although I was still pleased with those flowers so I got some seeds.
My other garden flowers are more related to vegetable gardening:
Pot Marigold or Calendula (Orange King) flower petals are good in a soothing lotion for skin burns (including sun burn) but the main reason for growing them is to repel the Asparagus beetle. When the asparagus on my first allotment plot was riddled with the beetle (they do a lot of damage to the foliage and stems), I tried growing pot marigold in the same bed the following year as a suggested companion plant and although there were still some damage (bearing in mind that the bed was already infested by year 2), I really did find there were a lot less and was more manageable. So if I grow the pot marigolds from the start, hopefully I won't get the beetle ....
Borage is related to comfrey and the prickly leaves can be similarly harvested for compost heaps, but they also produce pretty blue flowers that bees find very attractive. The flowers can also be used for garnishing drinks and salads. They can spread if left to self seed.
Although not a flower as such, I want to try growing some Houseleeks (Sempervivum) as part of another vertical / roof garden project - like the vertical bottle garden, the idea is to increase plant cover wherever possible (like on walls) for CO2 uptake. It will be small scale because (i) I don't have a suitable roof that (ii) will be strong enough to take the weight so I'm still looking for ideas ...
3. Vegetable growing
Late last year during a free p&p offer, I ordered some Asparagus crowns (Burgundine - a red coloured stem variety which are said to be more tender than green ones) which will arrive in March and plan on planting them in last year's "sweetcorn / wildflower" bed.
And on the same order I ordered my fave potatoes Vivaldi which I will grow in the polytunnel like I did last year. This time I hope to have raised beds in the other polytunnel which got a lot more light so fingers crossed for a bigger yield this time.
I was disappointed with the courgettes but really think a lot of that was due to the weather last year so I will give them another go as they seemed to have the potential to be heavy producers (lots of flowers but the fruit just didn't set) which quite possibly was just down to poor pollination. Likewise, I might start off some winter squash again and see how they do this year but it will only be from seed I already have rather than buy fresh.
I'll probably grow the same chilli (Beaver Dam), tomato (San Marzano) and aubergine (Moneymaker) from seed purchased last year but not as many because I'd really like to grow the cucumber, cabbage and beetroot that I didn't get round to because of lack of space.
4. Garden projects
Dare I mention the wildlife pond plans again ... I really need to get on with this soon but my attention has gone sideways at the moment while getting the house ready to bring Lucas home from the shelter. And not to forget the pond plants that need to be moved down to the pergola / gazebo.
The algae project will be started up with fresh culture and another batch of empty jars all clean and ready to join the others - during one of my decluttering moments I came across some fine mesh that I had been using for the pond filter which will be ideal to keep mosquitoes out this time! Using the algae as a biofertilizer is high on my list of the garden (soil) carbon sequestration project.
Composting - last year was a success and a big part of reducing my black bin and cardboard recycling waste (that is, it was all about seeing "waste" as a resource rather than something to throw away) Of course there is the argument that cardboard can be recycled which means using less trees but currently I see it as having a better use in the garden. I need to invest in another compost bin ... I know the council sell them cheap so will contact them soon.
Saving water is another project I'll be getting into as using tap water to water crops in the greenhouses & polytunnel has a carbon footprint which I would like to reduce
- I got a 200L water butt late last year to collect water from the chicken run but I also need to set up 2 more at the bottom of the garden to collect water from the pergola / gazebo roof I erected last year. As I mentioned in the 2019 summary, I'll also be looking at collecting grey water some time in the future (it will take some planning which I yet to think about so most likely not this year) and filtering it using natural methods such as watercress will be a part of it.
Hopefully my targets are not too ambitious but will certainly keep me busy this year!
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