Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Wildlife gardening

While I sit here typing this I am watching, despite the drizzle and cool temperatures outside, a pair of blackbirds collect moss and plant debris from the edge of my lawn with which to build a nest. Earlier, a host of house sparrows collected, first on my neighbours' hawthorn tree and then on our apple tree, loudly chattering and constantly moving from branch to branch. The local foxes have been out overnight again – this I know because my raised beds are a moonscape of hillocks and holes where they dig for who knows what. And only yesterday, a rather huge bumblebee flew heavily into the window pane looking out onto the garden. Nonplussed and unharmed, it bounced away noisily disappearing over the fence. My garden is about much more than the food and flowers I grow within in and the method by which I do this is as important as the result I work towards.

My reasons for growing organically are twofold. The first is an understanding that my garden environment is a ecosystem with populations of organisms from the bottom to the top of the food chain that naturally respond to the environmental conditions and availability of suitable foods. As the seasons pass and the weather changes and one year rolls into the next, the success or otherwise of a reproducing population will be reflected further up the food chain without the need for intervention or control by chemical means. A boom in creatures that I might consider to be pests, such as slugs, snails and aphids will be followed by an increase in their predators as they take advantage of the increase in numbers on which to feed.

My second conviction is one that we have heard lots about, particularly during the past year. That the effects of various chemical pesticides are often not fully known or understood until they begin to affect wildlife that was not the original target. For years now, new chemicals have been introduced and hailed as the next big thing, the saviour for gardeners amateur and professional, before years later they are withdrawn under the shadow of a human health scare or for some previous unknown effect on one or more wildlife populations.

A solitary bee checking out available accommodations

Frogs are a frequent spot in the suburban veg plot

A sleepy bumble bee having a snooze on an arbour

A ladybird in metamorphosis

The unwelcome Vulpes vulpes

An introduced species – the lesser spotted lawn ruiners

A bee feasting on the nectar of Dahlia 'Bishop of Landaff'

Possibly not taken in my garden. But given time, and a land bridge from India...

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sowing the seeds of a busy year

Such a mild winter and warm start to the year has meant that many people have started sowing earlier than usual. Beware the cold nights though – temperatures dropped to 3 or 4 Celsius around here last night. Tender plants need to be covered with fleece if outside or kept under glass.
I for one have been transporting a tray of tomato and chilli seedlings out to the greenhouse every morning and back in the house come the evening. Best not to take the risk of losing them.

In other news, the seed sowing is taking on epic proportions. Aside from a backlog of RHS seeds I've been meaning to get sown for a couple of years (let's hope they're still viable), I've also been hedging my bets by sowing lots of salad and veg seeds in case a certain project came through. And then it did.

So, come June this year, I will be planting out an 'Edible Patch' at none other than the Gardener's World Live Show at the NEC in Birmingham! The teaser bit is here on their website. Most of the other beds seem to be from allotment associations, so that sounds like they have a group of people growing the plants that will form the display. There's just lil' old me to produce mine. Hubby is lovely and supportive (and will definitely be roped in for all the heavy lifting come June) but his strengths just don't lie in seedling tending...