Category Archives: wildlife

Garden plans

Despite the gloom, I’m getting outside as often as I can to make a start on the changes I’ve planned for 2014. It’s very late though, especially given it’s been relatively mild.

Note: To maximise time in my own garden, I should really stop volunteering to get involved with other and bigger green spaces!!

I sowed the sweet peas around 2 weeks ago. I should have started with veg, but I never get around to it with sweet peas. Last year only one of the three that germinated actually survived after transplant at the allotment. The scent is intoxicating and they look so pretty clambering up cut branches. So far 24 have germinated, so I hope I will have many cut flowers in the house and around the veg plot.

Toilet rolls and potted papers for the sweet peas
Toilet rolls and potted papers for the sweet peas

I have finally been out with my secateurs to neaten the woodland wildlife garden. I needed to, to cut back the rampant Kerria japonica alongside the fence. The starlings in particular have been giving me a helping hand with taking last year’s perennial stems, but it felt good to finally start tidying and making space. I still have a long way to go, but it’s a start.

Forks at the ready
Forks at the ready

Our fence is in quite a bad state. It needed treating, so I thought a pretty colour would brighten up the back garden on a gloomy day. It draws attention to the crumbling frames, but I hope it will last another year or two. We have windbreaks to put up in the allotment before we can think about replacing this!

'Wild Thyme' Garden Shades fence paint
‘Wild Thyme’ Garden Shades fence paint

And the sorry state of the frog pond… The Scirpus had fallen completely under water while we were away, the stones put in to create shelves when the pond was built have moved, and there are no hiding places for the frogs, or easy places to get out. I still haven’t sorted it out, but I have bought a collection of water plants. Once I buy a new net (the small one I was using this morning snagged on a stone and went in AGAIN) and get even longer rubber gloves, I will be able to locate the stones, rearrange them and create some planting spaces to help the frogs. Hopefully then they will reward me with frogspawn, but it might be too late this year now.

Planted basket with marginals
Planted basket with marginals

Still, the sparrows are keeping busy. When a bunch of 6 or so screaming males descend in the garden at the same time it is wonderful to stop and watch. A pair of hungry great tits have just been to visit, and the dunnocks are coming a bit more frequently again.

Not strictly veg-growing, but all things that contribute to biodiversity by providing habitat and food for wildlife. Oh and I finally ordered raspberry canes today after dithering for weeks. So I will HAVE to get those beds finished over the next few days.

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Friday Frogs

I’ve been keeping my eye on the small wildlife pond in the back garden for signs of awakening. When I was topping up the bird feeders this morning I spotted a single frog in the back corner. When I went out to collect the laundry basket in at twilight, there were four.

I was so excited, but by the time I went back with my camera only three were there. It’s clear to see that there is a male piggy-backing on a female, so I hope there will be frog spawn very soon.

As happy as I am to see the emergence of my wildlife friends in the garden, I also feel quite sad. This time of year usually sees many amphibians squashed on the roadside, as they sluggishly make their way back to their breeding ponds. If you live near toad breeding areas, you might find the Toads on Roads campaign helpful. So please take care in your cars and on bikes to look out for frogs & toads crossing the road.
Frog Toad crossing

Phacelia and bees

A friend spotted the offer from the Soil Association for a free packet of phacelia seeds this spring. I duly sent off for some, and gave them to the boys for growing on their bed at the allotment.

Sowing bee friendly seeds for the kitchen garden and allotment
Sowing bee friendly seeds for the kitchen garden and allotment
Little helper J getting busy
Little helper J getting busy
J watering the seeds he's sown
J watering the seeds he’s sown

They have been carefully tending to them, and keeping the weeds (mostly) in check. They were absolutely delighted when the flower heads started bulging.

Emerging phacelia blooms
Emerging phacelia blooms
Phacelia in flower with calendula starting to follow
Phacelia in flower with calendula starting to follow

We have never grown this plant before, and I’ve been quite taken with their fractal aesthetic. As well as being able to enjoy a splash of lilac in the boys’ bed and with the beans, the bees have been loving them too :) And that’s what it’s all about really.

Bee on the phacelia
Bee on the phacelia
Phacelia in the bean bed
Phacelia in the bean bed

Bumblebees

Bee identificationBumblebee_Heath on FritillaryWe’ve been putting more thought into attracting pollinators through giving over space to flowers up at the allotment. Certainly in the gardens at home, front and back, when researching new options I look for the bee-friendly sticker on the RHS and other plant web pages.

We are RSPB family members, and the Summer 2013 magazine that arrived last week has a section on the RSPB conservation action for bumblebees (pp.46-54). This includes a handy identification chart for the 8 most common garden bumblebees.

I spotted a bumblebee visiting our Snake’s Head Fritillary this morning and rushed out with my phone.

I think, from what I recorded, that we had a Heath bumblebee or Bombus jonellus here. I’d like to be able to spot the difference right away, but the differences are so minute, I’m not sure I’ll ever be that accurate. I would like to record how many different species we have visiting our garden and allotment over the summer though (another post-phd dream!).

2013-05-01 09.39.32

Heavenly scent

I’m despairing at how little time I have to spend in the garden and up at the allotment, never mind updating the blog. My studies are due to end this year, so I have to accept this temporal shift in leisure time.

Bumble beeI took a break in the garden at lunch time as it’s the warmest day of the year so far with lovely blue skies, bird song, the odd lawnmower in the distance and that promising smell of spring in the air. As I sat down on our rather weather-worn bench, increasingly becoming part of the hideous conifer hedge :(, I was aware of the most delicious scent radiating from the Mahonia in the corner. Mmmmmmm. And it was busy attracting the emerging bees as well, the second bumble bee I have seen today swooped into the garden, circuited three times and then landed.

I had the camera in hand as I had noticed several ladybirds sunning themselves on the old Achillea seed heads.

Ahhh spring, how happy you make me feel on days like these :)

Ladybird

Where have all the bees gone?

…To our front garden? After we laid the new lawn, I concentrated on planting up the new front flower border. As it is our only south facing spot, I really wanted hot colours and the type of flowers that have never thrived in our shady raised borders in the back.

More photos to follow soon on the planting progress, but just recently I have noticed that there is a constant wave of activity over the heleniums.
Helenium Bee2

We have seen honey bees, mining bees and plenty of bumble bees in the flower bed, not to mention the hover flies, lace wings and ladybirds. Unfortunately, fewer seem to visit the border on the other side of the lawn, and a beautiful ruby-stemmed euphorbia I planted in the spring has been ravaged by aphids. It’s not looking so healthy now. I hope the bright colours of the flowers will attract more wildlife for next year, and as an autumn project we will be constructing insect houses with the children.

Helenium Ladybird1