Saturday, 30 June 2012

Not that it really matters

Seems like I spoke too soon. The sun has disappeared and it's back to the wet and windy...

...not that it really matters in the scheme of things...

...and at least someone in my garden seems to be appreciating it:

Pretty as a picture

Harvesting broad beans, cabbage, peas, carrots, lettuce and wild rocket from the plot. I've taken up the garlic too for drying. Lovely time of year despite the rain. I especially like seeing the dog roses and elderflowers in the hedgerows in June.

The orchard was looking a bit battered in the wind and rain the other day...

...and I appreciate the beauty of the long grasses more and more, it's a mystery me why people would want to buy the non-native ornamental ones from nurseries, though that's another story.

Lots of bees buzzing around when the sun comes out and many other beasties besides. I've no idea what this is on the phacelia but he seems to be enjoying himself:

And the hoverflies are pretty stunning:

All in all pretty as a picture, if I do say so myself.


Am I eating peas? Yes I am.

Wild flowers

One effect of the weird weather this year is that the pictorial meadow seeds I sowed back in April totally failed to germinate. Not a sausage. They're not cheap either. The previous couple of years they've come up a treat and been a big hit with the bees.  All I've got to show this year are a few shirley poppies that self-seeded from last year and a few opium poppies which always come up everywhere anyway. And a stray foxglove.

Incidently the yellow one in front is a cerinthe which found it's way in there somehow. So anyway I've plugged the gap with some Nicotiana mutabilis that I've been growing so hopefully I'll have something to show for it by the end of summer, that's if the slugs haven't completely ravaged them by then which they seem intent on doing at the moment.

At the other end of the plot by the horseradish the cornfield mix is doing better. No need to sow this again, it's happily self-seeded from last year with the usual mix of corncockles, field poppies and corn marigolds; the purple one at the bottom left is the perennial Phacelia bolanderi, another plant that's popular with the bees:

I've also been growing a few flowers to add to the ox-eye daisies in the orchard. A couple of weeks ago I planted out some tufted vetch - which had only reached the size of small plugs so are struggling a bit - this week it's the turn of some potentilla which I've grown using some saved seed from my back garden. Before you say anything I know they're not a wild flower and they won't come true from seed either but it hardly matters. And besides, I stole the idea after reading about how someone had done it in Gardens Illustrated, and if it's good enough for them then it's good enough for me.

I know I know this should be done in autumn but the ground is sodden at the moment and the plants are fairly beefy so I reckon they'll be right.

Fame at last

And speaking of gardening rags, or rather the aforementioned Gardens Illustrated, in the July editon they've published a photo of mine from back in April of an orange-tip butterfly feeding on white honesty in my garden. So before you rush out and buy a copy here it is again for nothing:

I spoil you, I really do.

They didn't plug my blog - can't imagine why - but they have sent me some sexy Tobisho secateurs:

In my yard

Yeah the foxgloves are back:

And a moths-eye view at night (or how I imagine it):

Liquid fertiliser from comfrey

Back in the middle of May I took the first cut of comfrey and piled it up to let it wilt:

A couple of weeks later it was looking like this:

I chopped it up a bit and stuffed it into an old water container...

...with a bit of wood and a brick over it to squash it down...

...covered it up and stuck it behind the cabin:

 Now if we take a look inside it's turning to liquid...

...I'll dilute this as needed to use as a feed on my tomatoes. You can of course just chuck your comfrey leaves into a water butt and make your feed that way but if you do it'll smell like a rotting corpe. By making a concentrate then diluting it the smell isn't nearly so bad.

Bread and circuses

Bread and Circuses is a metaphor for a superficial means of appeasement. It was the basic Roman formula for the well-being of the population, and hence a political strategy unto itself. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion, distraction, and/or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of the populace (wikipedia).

I only mention this because yesterday the olympic torch happened to pass through Derby and according to our local rag the whole county was "gripped with olympic fever".

Gripped. Olympics. Fever. Can you see where I'm going with this?

Sunday, 17 June 2012


Finally the weather seems to improving. Eating rocket, carrots and broad beans from the plot. Most things are a bit slow this year, not surprisingly, but the cool weather crops like the peas and broad beans are at least doing well.


Growing away nicely:

First broad beans


When the ground is as wet as now it's a good time to get a mulch on to keep the moisture in the ground. It'll also suppress weed growth and feeds the soil. I use compost and wilted comfrey:

Managing nettles for wildlife

Nettles support over forty species of insects and the peacock, red admiral, comma and small tortoiseshell butterflies all rely on them for feeding and breeding. Matthew Oates ("Garden plants for butterflies") recommends that to attract butterflies to breed a nettle patch should be at least nine feet by three feet and be in a warm and sunny spot. He also recommends that as the small tortoiseshell favours laying her eggs on young nettles then the most southerly third of the patch should be cut down to the ground in the second week of June - the first brood of caterpillars will have dispersed by then and the immediate regrowth will be utilized by females laying eggs in late June in early July.



The red admiral caterpiller folds a leaf together to make 'tent' securing the edges with silk. Within this structure the young caterpillar can feed in relative safety:

Not only are nettles great for wildlife they also make a great compost activator and you can eat them. So be nice to nettles.

Red admiral

First one I've seen this year, feeding on jacobs ladder in my garden and looking very healthy. It would be the offspring of ones that overwintered here as the new wave of arrivals from the continent haven't arrived yet - and I like to think it came from my nettle patch.


From upcycled pallets:

Monday, 4 June 2012

Whoop de jubilee. Hope you had a good one.

Jubilee carrots

First of the year:

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Jubilee weekend

Ah lovely rain. Just what we needed for the gardens. Asparagus, salad leaves and rocket for the plate; broad beans and the first carrots nearly ready.

Busy busy on the plot over the past few weeks; it's just about planted up now except of course it never is. I've sown carrots and more peas; the sprouts, broccoli, beans and tomatoes are in, likewise the sunflowers, dahlias, carnations and cosmos. The potatoes are earthed up, the daisies are flowering in the orchard, the elder trees are flowering in the hedgerow and all's well in my little realm.

I only hope the queen is feeling as chuffed. Nothing like a bit of rain on a parade.

More brassicas planted out

Sprouts and broccoli. If you've been paying attention you'll recognise these as the ones I potted up at the end of April:


Coming along nicely and starting to flower:


This has to be one of the best plants for attracting bees. I originally sowed it as a green manure - and still do - but I like to let some of it flower. It self seeds readily and germinates even in dry soil.

Grass management for wildlife

There's a lot of talk these days about the desirability of having "meadow areas" in gardens to replace those lost to intensive agriculture in the countryside. This is a bit of a misnomer as a meadow is a field of grass and wildflowers that's cut for hay in summer before being grazed by stock, something which clearly doesn't happen in gardens. But if the gardening media wants to rebrand an area of weedy long grass as a wildflower meadow then that's fine by me.

As has been pointed out by Dr Ken Thompson, it's actually the long grass that is of more use to a greater diversity of wildlife than the flowers, although people seem to have a natural affinity with wild flowers and who can blame them.

Having checked out the research (alright reading a couple of books) my own approach with the grass in my orchard is to mow a couple of paths through it then cut a section of it at the beginning of June, some more at the beginning of July, then all of it at the end of summer and keep it all short from then on going into winter. Hopefully this provides the right mix of long and new short grass for the needs of the greatest variety of invertebrates. Of course I can't resist wildflowers either, many of which, like the clover, buttercups, self-heal, and wood forget-me-not need no encouragement from me as they were already there, and they are obviously of use to pollinating insects. To these I've added ox-eye daisies and bladder campion raised from seed and also sown pink campion. This year I've got some tufted vetch, field scabious and vipers bugloss on the go in the coldframe which I'll plant out later.

 Ox-eye daisies

Pink campion