Rural Living

Our Gardens.

The soil in our area is mainly shale and fine grained sand stone. With the addition of plenty of organic matter and compost added the soil we have a good growing medium, with a PH of 7. At our elevation of 247mts the soil temperature increases at a slower rate than down on the coast, so we find we are a couple of weeks behind the growing season on the coast in Spring. We also suffer from high winds mainly from the west, so newly planted trees and shrubs need to be well staked. We have also found to our cost that the same applies to our runner beans and sweet peas in the vegetable garden, if we are to protect them from the summer gales.

The garden leads across to a small meadow, with a small orchard at the bottom. Last summer we let the meadow grow and we had numerous wild flowers blooming. We intend to do the same this summer, and then cut the grass for hay later in the season. On the southern boundary is a belt of deciduous trees mainly Rowan and Welsh Oak. These trees give shelter to our vegetable garden, but are far enough back not to create shade, except when the sun is low in the sky in winter. The birds are attracted to the cover offered by these trees and we have recently put nest boxes in the trees, which were mainly inhabited by blue tits last spring.

The eastern boundary is flanked with a line of damson trees. To the north our neighbours agricultural land rises steeply, and has gorse and fern growing, which is a haven for wild life. We leave a wild belt up to the fence which is inhabited by many species of insect life.

Living in a rural location, we believe that we are visitors to the home of the wild life population, and have a duty not to have an adverse effect on their habitat. We want to try to improve the cover, nesting and food sources for the birds, both for our own benefit, and for the wild bird population. We have done some research into which trees and hedgerows provide the best habitat for birds, and which natural food sources attract which birds. We also realize that as a general rule, birds do not like to feed too close to their nests, for fear of attracting attention to their nests. However food sources must be available within the area, but most birds are prepared to fly hundreds of yards to forage. We have listed some species of trees, shrubs, and climbers that make good nesting sites, although this is not exhaustive. Natural Tree Nesting Sites

We are going to keep a journal of our garden in 2006 to chart our successes and failures. This will also give us the opportunity to plan for 2007.

January 2006. February 2006. March 2006. April 2006. May 2006. June 2006. July 2006.

 

August 2006. September 2006. October 2006. November 2006. December 2006.

 

Our Vegetable Garden 2012.

 

January 2006. The garden always looks at its worst this time of year, and we intend to add some additional plants this year to give more colour in winter. The Winter Rose (Helleborus) is in bloom in the flower bed under the dining room window, which is a sign that it wont be many months before the borders are in full bloom again. The winter flowering Heathers are also in bloom, as are the Primulas, giving some colour to the otherwise rather drab borders. In the vegetable garden we have continued to harvest our brussel sprouts, and the last of the cauliflowers. The taste of the brussels has been absolutely superb, we grew Breeze last year and intend going for the same variety this year. We are extending the vegetable garden this year, so have been removing more turf, and digging over the patch. With our log fire, we have plenty of wood ash, so this has been added to the soil, and a quick inspection of the compost heap shows all is well with some superb compost available for the garden.

February 2006. We have a number of conifer trees to the front boundary of the garden out towards the lane. They were probably planted in the late 1960's to give shelter from the S/Westerly winds. They do not really fit in with the surroundings and although they give shelter to the wild birds, we are discussing whether we should remove some of them, and replace them with a more native variety of tree. We have decided to plant some Mountain Ash (Rowan), on the bank in front of some of the conifers, and dependent on how they mature we may remove some of the conifers. We have removed two of the large conifers on the western side of the house, as we were concerned about the effects the roots could have on the foundation of the house, Although this has removed some of the shelter from the westerly winds, we have planted a Laurel Hedge (Elaeagnus ebbingei), which is known for its resilience to windy conditions, and will in time replace the shelter offered by the conifers. We buy our trees and hedging from Buckingham Nurseries, which have an excellent website www.hedging.co.uk with information on planting and growing tips. To give additional shelter and nesting sites we have planted hedging around the vegetable garden, and along the fence to the lane. The hedging includes Alder, Buckthorn, Blackthorn, Quick Thorn, Spindle, Dog Rose, Dogwood, Guelder Rose,Hazel, and Sweet Briar. The ground for the hedging was well dug over and manured to give the hedging a good start. We have also purchased our early potatoes, selecting the same varieties as last year Pentland Javelin, and Home Guard, we have now put them in trays for chitting. Last year we found the Home Guard potatoes we dug up later in the season were delicous when baked with the sunday roast, and we are hoping for the same this year. At the end of the month we planted some fruit bushes in the vegetable garden, we chose the following varieties, Gooseberry Careless. Blackcurrant, nigrum, and Redcurrant rubrum.

Early March 2006, first crocus in the garden

March 2006 With heavy snowfall during the first week of the month we were unable to do any work in the garden. As we do not have heating in the greenhouse, it is too early at our location to begin sowing seeds, so very little work has been done. We had ordered some perennials for a gardening job in a local garden, but did not require them all. So we have planted them into pots at home, and will plant them in the borders in April. To improve shelter from the westerly winds we have put up some trellis along the path to the rear of the house. Sue has purchased some Winter Jasmine, Jasmine Beesianum, Honeysuckle Cream Cascade, and Honeysuckle Serolina, to grow up the trellis, and will hopefully give a good fragrant show.

14th The cold weather with snow has continued, and is expected to last all week, so no work has been done in the garden. The honeysuckle and jasmine Sue brought have been potted on in the greenhouse for now. Looking around the garden the only flowers in bloom are some Crocuses, Snowdrops (Galanthus), Winter Roses (Helleborus), and the first of the Daffodils. Everything seems so far behind this year.

17th We want to get the compost bin emptied and put the contents on the flower beds. When I checked the compost bin out today I found the compost was frozen in places, so could'nt get the bin emptied. We went to a wild garden seminar last weekend, and have a number of new ideas we are going to adopt to make our gardens more wildlife friendly. We have a tree to take down shortly, and will be making a log pile to encourage more insects to take up residence. This should make an additional food source for the wild birds. We are also going to plant some Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium Purpureum), Alder Buckthorn, along with some other plants that will attract butterflies.

28th With an improvement in the weather we have finally managed to get out into the garden. The last part of the vegetable patch has been dug over. The fruit trees we planted last year have buds on them, so appear to have come through the winter. The Winter Jasmine and Honeysuckle has been planted, and the flower beds have had the contents of the compost heap dug in. The Sweet Pea (Cupani) seeds have been planted in 3inch pots, and are in the airing cupboard until they germinate, and they are sharing their home with a tray planted up with Leeks (Musselburgh) . We have noticed that our purple sprouting broccoli planted last year has been looking very sorry for itself. Early this morning we identified the culprit, a rabbit in the vegetable patch. The vegetable patch is fenced with pig netting, and chicken wire around the bottom, so should be, and always has been, rabbit proof. There are no obvious signs of entry, so a more thorough investigation is called for, before this years planting gets underway. The soil is still too cold for planting any of this years vegetables, so we are hoping for some sunshine, and warm weather to warm the soil.

Early April light snowfall

April 2006 With a cold start to the month, little work has been completed in the vegetable garden. The gap has been found that the rabbits are getting in, and has been closed. Work has commenced in the greenhouse, with a good wash down with a little Jeyes Fluid.

5th.We planted our tomatoe seeds, our favorite Moneymaker, and they are now germinating in the airing cupboard. Our Leeks and Sweet Peas have germinated and are now on the windowsill. Some Iceberg lettuce have been sown in trays in the greenhouse, along with some Geranium, Night Scented Stocks (Matthiola bicornis), and some more fragrant Sweet Peas (Old Fashion Mix). Our herbs which in summer reside on the front patio, have overwintered in the greenhouse and are begining to flourish again, but with snow still forecast in the coming days they will remain in the greenhouse.

16th With the weather improving and the soil temperature increasing we have planted our potatoes Arran Pilot and Homeguard. Planted 5 inches deep, 12 inches apart, in rows 24 inches apart. We now look forward to our first new potatoes. We also planted our Onion Sets. A couple of potatoes have been put in pots in the greenhouse for an early crop. Our herbs have been moved onto the front patio for the summer, and the tulips in pots are making a good show. We have had problems with rabbits in Peanut Garden with a number of burrows appearing in the banks, pushing soil over the rockery plants. I have filled the holes in with chicken wire, and hope this will solve the problem.

 

Pieris Andromeda early April 2006

May 2006 April was a month where it appeared that nature was on hold. With the weather improving in May, many of the flowers that normally bloom in April are now giving a wonderful display. The Pieris (Andromeda) which gives some colour to the border in winter with its dense evergreen foliage, now has long sprays of blooms like Lilly of the Valley, and bright red leaves from the new growth. This shrub needs little attention, and is slow growing. It likes acid soil, and we feed the soil to ensure it lives in the environment it enjoys. Pruning is not necessary, but the dead flowers should be removed. We intend to layer some branches this summer for additional shrubs.

14th. With the improvement in the weather, the soil has been warming up nicely. In the vegetable garden work has began in earnest. The potatoes we planted last month have been earthed up. The runner beans that we planted last month in 3inch pots now have two leaves open and have been transplanted, 10inches apart in a double row 12 inches apart. Each plant is supported by an eight foot cane, and these are tied together with horizontal canes forming an inverted "V". We had also planted up some iceberg lettuce in trays, and these have now been planted out 10 inches apart. We have tidied up the strawberry plants but have not given a feed as this can can increase leaf growth at the expense of fruit. The sweet peas planted in 3inch pots have now been planted 6inches apart supported by 6ft canes formed in a wigwam. There are a number of other plants ready to go in the ground, and this means a busy time in the garden for us in the coming week.

Early Spring 2006 in vegetable garden

15th Last year we planted Mangetout instead of peas as we enjoy them in stirfrys, and they are rather expensive to buy in the supermarkets. We did miss the fresh peas last year, so our intention was to grow both this year. When we came to buying our seeds we noticed that Unwins do a Pea/Mangetout variety Delikata. This is a mangetout which also produces conventional peas when the pods are "past it" for mangetout. We are giving them a try, and sowed them last month in the greenhouse. They are hardening off now outside, ready for planting out. I never like the look of conventional plastic netting for peas, it always seems to look untidy, or perhaps its just that I am not particularly good at erecting it. This year I have put three posts in the ground, and strung seven lengths of old electric fencing wire between the posts. 6inches apart. I think they look better and and hopefully will be just as effective. The Leeks we planted last month in 3inch pots are now about 8inches high and will be planted out shortly. We prepared a bed last autumn digging in plenty of well rotted manure, so they should have a good growing medium to mature in.

16th Today we planted the first row of leaks, 6inches apart, in rows 12inches apart. The young leaks were teased out of their pots to make sure the roots were not damaged, then holes were made with a dibber, then the leaks put in, watering, allowing the soil to form around the roots naturally, rather than planting in the conventional way. The grass has really started to grow quickly, and grass cutting is becoming a regular chore. The potatoes are already pushing through where they have been earthed up, and will soon require a second and final earthing up. The strawberry plants have a large number of flowers opening, so we hope for a good strawberry crop.

Greenhouse late April 2006

18th Today we planted out the Mangetout. We have planted out some French Marigolds, and Night Scented Stocks. These have been planted around the seating areas, so hopefully we will enjoy the fragrance of the Night Scented Stocks on warm summer evenings.

22nd The last few days have been very wet, with a couple of days of high winds, that have caused wind damage to some of the shrubs. It has also stopped the planting in the vegetable garden, with Leeks, Beetroot, and Carrots waiting to be planted. The majority of plants have been moved out of the greenhouse for hardening off, with preparations now taking place for the tomatoe plants, cucumber, and peppers to be grown inside.

Last year we used the Ring Culture System for growing our tomatoes. This system is normally adopted if disease has built up in the greenhouse. However our reason for its use is we find it less labour intensive. If we go away overnight we can give the plants sufficient water without the worry of the growing medium drying out, or becoming waterlogged.

GROWING TOMATOES BY THE RING CULTURE METHOD

The rings are bottomless containers 9inches in dia, and 9inches deep. Ours are made of plastic, although you can obtain whale-hide rings. We place them in rows 18inches apart from centre to centre,on a bed of aggregate 6inches deep. The rings are filled with compost to about 1inch of the rim, we use the compost from grow bags. Two days before planting water the aggregate and compost. When planting give each compost ring two pints of water, any further watering over the next ten days should be done through the rings. After this period the roots should have reached the aggregate, and any further watering should be via the aggregate.

Vegeatable Garden late April 2006
FEEDING TOMATO PLANTS.

This is done via the rings. A weekly feed of a high potash proprietary liquid fertilizer should be given, about 2 pints per ring.

WATERING THE TOMATO PLANTS

In hot dry weather approx two litres of water should be given around each ring daily. In duller, cooler weather every other day will be enough.

June 2006. The month has started with much improved weather, giving us a chance to get on with our planting in the garden. The potatoes have had their second and final earthing up. The runner bean plants appear a little wind damaged, and the leaves do not have the normal dark green coloring. Instead, they are light green in colour, and appear a little sickly. The leaks, onions, and mangetouts have not progressed, and although the tomato plants were planted in the greenhouse at the end of last month, they have made little progress.

Apple Blossom early June 2006

12th What a difference a week of warm weather can make. The vegetables in the vegetable garden have started to grow. The runner beans, which although they still do not look as healthy as other years, are beginning to climb up the canes. The strawberry plants are beginning to produce fruit, and we are watering them regularly to help the fruit to swell. The fruit trees have blossom on them, and although we do not have high expectations of fruit in their second year, it is encouraging to see they have rooted well. The tomatoes are beginning to grow, and we have started the regular task of pulling off the side shoots. The cucumber plants have been planted on in the greenhouse, and the peppers will follow next week. The cauliflowers, and brussel sprouts have been planted on, and will be going into the vegetable garden at the end of the month.

25th Last week we put straw under the strawberry plants, and have today had our first strawberries, which were absolutley delicous. It looks like we are going to have an exceptional crop this year. We have also dug up our first new potatoes (home guard) which seem a little ahead of the arran pilot variety. We are also pulling lettuce, and at present have a glut, so are giving a number away, the geese also enjoy the odd treat of a lettuce. The betroot are growing well, and we should be thinning them out in the next couple of weeks, using the thinnings in our salads.

July 2006. The hot weather of the end of June, and the beginning of July has led to the veggie patch needing watering to ensure the vegetables survive and prosper. One of the benefits of living in Wales is we do not have a hose pipe ban.

Vegetable Garden late June 2006

9th We have a glut of strawberries, so Sue has been busy making Strawberry Jam, it is absolutely delicious. We have also been giving strawberries away, everybody tells us they are the best strawberries they have tasted, so we are going to continue with the royal sovereign variety. In the greenhouse, the tomatoes are swelling, the cucumbers are beginning to form behind the flowers, and the pepper plants are growing well. Outside, the beetroot's continue to grow well, and we are eating the mangetouts, and also the peas from the mangetouts that have swelled. The peas taste really sweet, and we seem to eat more as we pick, than go through the kitchen door. It is really nice to walk in the vegetable garden, pulling off and eating the fruits of our labours. The cauliflowers, brussel sprouts, and purple sprouting are growing, and have not been attacked by the caterpillars yet. We have a glut of lettuce, and again all visitors go away with a lettuce. For those who are old enough to remember, people walking out of the gate, often look as if they have taken part in the old children's program "Crackerjack". The carrots have been a disaster, we planted the seed just at the start of the hot spell, and they have not germinated well. The runner beans seem to be improving, but still do not look as healthy as last year, but flowers are forming, so fingers crossed for a good crop. One of the highlights of the summer is eating our first young runner beans, with some homegrown potatoes, and local lamb from our friends smallholding, and not a chemical in sight. The leaks and onions appear to be a success story, and are growing well. We are looking forward to pulling leaks come the winter and making leak and potato soup for a cold winters evening meal, sitting by the log fire. The gooseberry, red currant, and blackcurrant bushes we planted in February seem to have established themselvesl, and we feel this was due to the fact that they were planted in winter when the soil had plenty of moisture in it.

Lily (Centrefold)The hedging we planted in February around the vegetable garden is becoming established. To ensure it has plenty of moisture we are using the lawn cuttings as a mulch, and this is also keeping the weeds down.

16th The strawberries, peas, new potatoes, and lettuce continue to be harvested. Our friends called yesterday with their grandchildren, we spent some time in the vegetable garden, and the children picked and ate strawberries, and peas from the pod. It was nice to see youngsters enjoying themselves in such a way. Some of the leafs on the brassicas appear to have been nibbled, so we will need to check if we have had a visit from (Pieris Brassicae) Large White Butterfly (Cabbage White). Although in one way they are a pest, their numbers have reduced significantly in the last century, due to organic insecticides, and a virus in the 1950's, so it is a measured response to protect the brassicas and protect the species.

27th The strawberries have finally finished, and are now starting to put out runners. We put two runners from each plant, still attached to the parent plant, into 6" pots, which are sunk into the ground, alongside the plant. Once established, we plant them up with a good root system into a new strawberry bed, and dig up the old plants. We keep two beds Lily (Mediterannee)one containing new plants, and one containing year old. We then dig them up after their second fruiting season. The leeks continue to grow and they have been covered and earthed up so as to blanch the stems. The onions are swelling but not as well as we would have hoped, probably due to the dry hot weather. We have been irrigating the vegetable garden, but there is nothing like natural rain. The runner beans are in flower and the first beans are forming, we have a significant number of bumble bees pollinating the flowers this year, and the beans seem to be recovering well after their early set back. The sweet peas are flowering well, and give off a beautiful scent when working in the garden, and in the rooms of the house where the cut flowers are displayed. The red currant and black currant bushes have produced a little fruit in their first year, not enough for a pie, but a good indication of their general health. The peas/mangetouts continue to give us a good crop, some of which we are now freezing, and we will be using the same variety next year. The beetroot's are now being harvested, and following a tip we picked up on John Harrison's Allotment Website we have found a quicker way to prepare them. (Put four betroots into a microwave proof dish filled with boiling water and put into microwave on full power for eight/ten minutes depending on size. Take out and carefully drain water, then put betroots into a dish of cold water. The skins will then peel off by rubbing with fingers).Check the full details on John's site, go to forum, and then recipes) Click Here for John's Site

In the greenhouse the tomatoes are just turning, and the peppers have flowers forming. The cucumbers keep catching us out. We check them regularly in the morning thinking we have picked all the mature ones, only to find more mature ones by mid day. They must swell very quickly. Due to the continued hot weather the lawns are parched, and the shrubs in the borders are wilting. We are using waste water from the house to keep them watered, and it does seem to revive them. The newly planted hedging has also shown signs of wilting, and have needed to be irrigated.

August 2006. The weather at the start of the month has begun unseasonalably cool.

Turning the Hay for the final time

12th With some rain during the first part of the month the runner beans have improved, and are beginning to crop well, giving us enough to eat and to freeze for the winter. The carrots that started as a disaster due to the dry, hot weather are starting to grow now, and although not as good as last year, will give us a crop after all. The runners from the strawberry plants have rooted well and are beginning to grow. We had some concerns for the hedging we planted around the vegetable patch, and the Rowan Trees we had planted along the lane side, both of which had wilted. We have been pleasantly surprised with how they have revived following the cooler and wetter weather we have experienced during the last couple of weeks. The early potatoes are being harvested, and although the same varieties as last year, they do not have such a good taste. We suspect this may be due to the dry conditions. We are eating them dry fried, and they are exceptionally delicious. (bring to the boil, then cut into squares, then with a little bit of oil, dry fry in a non stick pan).

20th With the continual wet and unseasonable cool weather, the Runner Beans have continued to prosper following last months hot and dry weather. It looks like we will have as good a crop as last year, if not better. With the excess crop we are picking, many of the beans are being frozen. The onions have been lifted, and are now drying on the soil surface, and will be picked, and dried in the next couple of days, ready for storage and use this winter. Some of the plants have not faired so well in the hot dry weather. We have a Conifer Junipeus (J. communis 'Compressa') the foliage has gone brown, and it would appear to have died. We have also noticed that some of the hydrangea bushes have also been affected. The Mophead variety, with their large ball like blooms show some signs of water fatigue, with some of the petals on the blooms turning brown. The Lacecap varieties seem to have fared much better, with some magnificent blooms forming.

The Harvest of Summers Wild Flowers

26th In the vegetable garden we are now battling the caterpillars on the brussel sprouts. With such a large population of butterflies in July, it would seem that the Cabbage White has been prolific in its egg laying exploits. We are checking the brassicas every day, killing any caterpillars found before they can impact adversely on the brassicas. We continue to pick runner beans and peas, and are freezing what has come to be a significant excess. In the greenhouse, the plants seem to have suffered from the excessive heat of July. Something appears to be eating some of the tomatoes, although we have not seen the culprit yet. One tomato plant has shown signs of rot on the bottom of the tomatoes, so this plant has been removed and burnt. A late evening visit to the greenhouse may be called for to find the phantom tomato eater.!. The cucumber plants have not given us a good crop, and those we have picked appear misshapen, although the taste in cucumber sandwiches, with a little cheese is as good as ever. The peppers are forming, although the leaves have been eaten in places, although again the culprit has not been seen. In the flower garden we continue to remove the dead blooms, encouraging new blooms, and pruning back other shrubs. The lavender flowers have not lasted as long this year with the cooler wetter weather, and are begining to fade. Some of the other shrubs are beginning to show the first signs of the approach of autumn. It will not be long before the time comes to tidy up the garden for winter.

September 2006.

Summers Flowers

6th The crop from the cucumber plants has improved with a number of small fruits forming behind the new flowers. The tomatoes are ripening, but do not seem to have the same flavour as last year, but still make a nice snack cooked on toast. We have finally found the phantom leaf and tomato chewer, a small insect that resides in the chipping's used as the watering medium for the tomato plants. We have decided to take no action for now, as we do not want to use chemicals, nor disturbed the roots of the tomato plants. At the end of the season I will remove the chipping's, letting them over winter outside, giving them a thorough wash before using them next year. The onions have been platted and hung in the workshop, ready for use this coming winter. Before the hot spell we had planted two rows of carrots, but they had failed to germinate because of the dry weather. Last month we noticed some of them had germinated and had begun to grow. With the wet weather they have continued to prosper, and it now looks like we will have a good crop of carrots for our winter stews. One of the great things with gardening is you never know when nature will surprise you.

24th The mixed hedging we planted round the vegetable garden last winter has flourished, probably helped by the continued mulching with grass cuttings throughout the summer. We have continued to trim the top growth, which has encouraged side shoots, thickening the young plants up. The pruning of the shrubs in the garden has started in earnest, clearing the excess foliage will give light to the spring bulbs and primroses in early spring, and give shape and encourage new growth to the shrubs next year. The Mountain Ash we planted on the lane side has recovered and shows some late growth.

October 2006.

15th Having left some of the runner bean pods to go to seed we have now picked them, and will use the seed for next years plants. We have also done the same with some of the sweet pea pods, as one of the varieties we planted this year had a magnificent fragrance. The strawberry plant runners that we potted on last month are now ready for planting up, and the two year old plants in the vegetable garden will be removed to the compost heap. The taste of the strawberries has been superb, and we took additional runners, as friends wanted some young plants too. The leaks have grown well, and we have a good crop ready for pulling this winter. We like the Leek as it gives us a crop that does not need storing, and can be pulled when required. Most of the pruning has been completed, and the compost heap is stacked high. With the mild weather of late, the grass has continued to grow, and although there is a lush look to the lawn, regular mowing has been required to keep the grass under control.

28th The pruning is nearly complete, and the hedges have had a final clip for the winter. The recent winds have blown many leaves around the garden, and these have to be collected on a regular basis and be added to the compost heap. The plants that will not survive the harsh winter weather have been moved into the greenhouse for protection. We have started to clean the greenhouse up, but can't get to the back wall because the peppers are still supplying us with a good crop for stir fries, and other dishes. The cooking apples have been prepared for stewed apple, and have now been frozen, ready for winter deserts, and the eating apples are stored away. It will soon be time to review our successes and failures this year, and plan for next year.

November 2006

20th The new strawberry plants we intended to plant up have been put in the greenhouse. We have decided with the soil being so wet to delay planting until the Spring. The Peppers in the greenhouse have now finished, and with the greenhouse cleared we have cleaned the glass, frame, and floors with a Jeyes solution. The Fuchsias which have given a beautiful autumn display in the flower beds, have now been pruned back almost to ground level. The Leeks have been left in the ground and will be pulled as they are needed. The carrots and onions which have been harvested, have now been stored away in the shed for use over the winter.

30th With the ground remaining wet, little work has been possible in the garden. The grass has continued to grow in the mild weather, but it has not been possible cut it due to the weather. The other thing that has continued to grow has been the weeds in the vegetable patch. We like to weed as we clear each area, so today we managed to clear and weed some of the beds. We now have Brussel Sprouts, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, and Leeks for fresh winter vegetable. The compost bins are full, and we have decided two additional bins will need to be constructed for next year.

December 2006

23rd Very little work has been possible in recent weeks. We have harvested Leeks as we have needed them, and today harvested some of the Brussel Sprouts for Christmas Dinner. We find some people say they do not like Brussel Sprouts, but you normally find they have only tasted shop bought brussels. Once they have tasted home produced, they enjoy them that much they want more. We find others want our Brussel Sprouts for Christmas Dinner. Each year we plant a variety for harvesting now, and another planting for February. We normally have the Runner Bean and Onion beds manured by now, this year we have not been able to get to the manure heap in the local farmers field because the ground is saturated, this will now have to be a job for the New Year.

 

Natural Tree Nesting Sites For Birds

The main natural provisions required by tree nesting birds when selecting a nesting site are :-

Texture of the tree, hedge, or bush. A hedge must not be too thick otherwise the bird will not be able to build a nest. It must also offer enough room for the bird to move around, and to make a quick escape if danger is present. Very closely clipped hedges therefore make it very difficult for the bird to enter or exit, and to build a nest. The hedge must also not be too open, otherwise predators will be able to gain access to the nest. The ideal nesting site would therefore be a thorny hedge, with good foliage coverage, giving sufficient protection from hot sun and rain, and protection from predators. Ideally it would only be cut once or twice a year, so that it is not too thick or open.

The birds must have a firm foundation to build their nest, with branches at the correct angle to support the side. The branches must also not be too flexible in the wind, otherwise the nest could loosen with disastrous results.

If birds are to nest in shrubs the bush needs to be pruned annually, to keep them bushy.

Clematis. We have planted up some clematis which does not require regular pruning. We are growing these up trellis which we hope will attract smaller birds, such as the goldfinch.

Blackthorn. Amongst the damson trees are some blackthorn. Its structure and branches are ideal for small nesting birds, and we have given them a trim to encourage a bushy growth. We have also sited nest boxes in these trees, and they seem popular with Blue Tits.

Apple and Pear Trees. We have planted some apple and pear trees which we will be pruning annually, and hope to keep them to about 3mts. This we hope will allow them to thicken up, with the possibility of blackbirds, thrushes, chaffinches, green finches, or goldfinches taking up residence in future years.

Berberis These supply autumn berries for the birds, but do not normally offer a good nesting site. We are going to try to "open it out" to attract perhaps sparrows and greenfinches.

Pyracantha. The berries are a useful food source for birds, and when grown up walls can make an excellent nesting site.

Blackberry. We have a patch of wild blackberry at the end of the meadow, this was the home to chaffinches last summer. A vast array of birds including blackbirds, greenfinches, thrushes, yellowhammers, to name just a few will nest in these sites.

Cotoneaster. The berries are a good source of food for the birds, but are only useful nesting sites if trimmed regularly to produce thicker growth.

Gorse We have a patch of this in the garden, and our neighbours have large areas on their farmland. It makes ideal nesting sites for many birds including, blackbirds, thrushes, linnets, yellowhammers, and long tailed tits.

Hawthorn Probably one of the best nesting sites of all. The thorns stop ground predators, and the leaf canopy gives protection from predators above. The berries in autumn are also a good food source for the birds.

Laurel. We have recently planted a laurel hedge, that we intend to prune to encourage the birds to use as a nesting site.

Mountain Ash (Rowan). Although of little use as a nesting site, the berries in autumn are a useful food supplement for birds.

Welsh Oak. Not a particularly good nesting site except for perhaps members of the crow family. They are however home to many types of insect, which the birds use as a food source.