Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

I have been meaning to do this for ages and here it finally is, I have a dedicated page with a calendar for seed sowing and planting.
Click Here to jump straight to it, but keep in mind it is a page tab at the top of the screen near the ”About Growingarden” tab.

seasonal

Soon I will update the other months such as March onwards so you can order your seeds in advance and also prepare / think how you would like to arrange your garden design this year.
Keep in mind, newer concepts like Companion Planting, Planting for wildlife especially Pollinators etc. Some herbs are pungeant, they release off strong odours which repel and confuse pests.

Remember, to keep things interesting, think what did not work so well last year and apply one of the Permaculture Principles ”The Problem is the Solution”- in other words you can fix a problem by turning it into a solution and working with it instead of against.
For an off -the-head example: If you have had problems with slugs and no matter what you do, their numbers never drop and the population keeps staying high, get a duck or two! Ducks love them and you will be introducing a pest controller into your system which will produce eggs and even meat if you wish, lets not forget they also have a built in rear compost spreader as well! ūüėČ

This Seasonal Growing Calendar is only valid for Cold Weather  / Temperate Climates such as in the Northern Hemisphere / Europe/UK where frosts are expected during winter.

And so¬†I finally get around to posting ”what’s going on” photo’s of both my Allotment and Garden …

I love bees, but unfortunately with this year’s cool weather, I haven’t been able to get a nice photo yet compared with previous years, I do have a frog though ūüėČ

Click on each picture below for a larger image of such

 

Wildlife have increased both on the Allotment and Garden, mainly due to the added varieties of plants as well as ponds on both sites, I can’t stress enough how important a pond is, even if you just get a small container and place it in a hole with a few plants inside, it will go a long way to help the local ecosystem, not only that but can also create a Micro Climate which you can take advantage of in terms of Plant Variety and options …

Tadpoles are, Still Tadpoles! …¬†in the small pond at home, I’m leaning towards that maybe they don’t have as much food due to the pond size compared with the Allotment, so I’ve made a mental note to throw in a few more ”accidentally stepped on” slugs to help them along …

I’m growing Achocha for the first time this year, they are climbers so they are growing amongst the Pumpkins on the large trellis, they are related to the famous ‘Exploding Cucumber’ but the reason why I’m growing them is I feel like giving up on Peppers, the slugs are too Rambo here and this variety is said to taste like Green Peppers when fried – they are also a vine plant so a bit out of reach for the slugs.

The Japanese ‘Hokkaido’ Pumpkin are said to be one of the easiest Heritage (Heirloom) pumpkins to grow in the UK climate, are quite prolific and highly recommended as well as the Pumpkin Masque De Province.

I chopped down my Bocking 14 Comfrey literally 3 – 4 weeks ago and already have a plant almost two thirds back to the original size! You definitely need to divide the roots every year after the second year onwards … the crowns sell for reasonable money online so keep that in mind! I am pondering opening an online shop here, this will be something on offer if I go ahead with the idea.

Above are the photo’s from the Allotment plot, starting with a nice sunrise sometime perhaps after 6am? Once cloud, wow, amazing for the UK skyline eh?

The wildflower bed is¬†doing better now than I had expected (I really waited very late to buy and sow a pack on that dedicated bed) luckily all worked out fine, I suspect maybe less than half of the varieties mentioned on the seed pack germinated so I was quite happy with what came out. The Borage flowers are beautiful aren’t they? No wonder they are used in salads for a visual touch!

The¬†Pumpkin¬†is another French variety¬†Galeuse d’Eysines which I had some reasonable success with last year, it climbs well and does pretty good in storage

I placed Marigolds ‘Tagetes’ too late ( well I discovered that Marigolds really should be the First plant you germinate before you start sowing vegetable seeds – this is a personal observation, but I bet not my own) and hence lost a Pumpkin and Courgette plant to slugs, the other marigolds under my Achocha plants almost got completely decimated (that’s their purpose anyway) but are coming back to life now, their new purpose is ornamental¬†to brighten up the plot¬†and finally to provide me with seed for next year

The Water Mint ‘Mentha Aquatica’ are now flowering, they are insect / Bee beneficial and if you look closely in the photo, you can see¬†a resident Frog¬†on the left near the flower right in the emergence zone at the water line.

Till the next Garden / Allotment update – most likely a Harvest Update but there might be more ”mid summer” if we suddenly get good hot weather so the plants can get a boost

With basic problem solving in building a pond system in your garden, just take a look at photo’s online after establishing your goal/s. My own goals are three to four things, namely:

  1. Wildlife promotion
  2. Pest Control
  3. Microclimate
  4. Additional Edible Plants

With these points in mind and with Wildlife Promotion and Pest Control being the main two objectives, the pond will have to be habitat friendly and provide food source / forage opportunity and shelter.

Previously I posted an article (Click Here) titled ‘Wildlife and Frog Friendly Ponds’ where at the very end, I posted one picture and challenged my viewers to ”spot the mistakes”, below in the same image, I have circled the problems which wildlife (mainly frogs and newts) would experience in that particular design …

perma ponds - wrong doings complete

here’s the list of issues that would need fixing to bring this pond to be very beneficial for wildlife:

  1. Do not create a ring of stones without gaps between, these stones will heat up during the day and may become too hot for organisms to access the ”emergence zone”. I would completely remove smaller stones creating a gully and I would plant soft ground cover such as Mind Your Own Business ‘Soleirolia soleirolii‘ which will grow between the rocks and give the pond a rustic feel eventually
  2. This clump of plant is too large and should be reduced soon, the best is to have different species of plants with different functions rather than only one
  3. There is a lack of plant diversity Especially that I cannot see an oxygenating plant (this pond size is ideal for at least 5-7 plant types including at least two oxygenators) This will provide much needed in-habitat shelter and cover from predation as well as housing for the future generations of tadpoles etc.
  4. Looks like there is no gradual slope making it easy for frogs and newts to exit easily, this includes that there is not enough cover planted outside the pond which would provide much needed shelter for emerging / entering wildlife (there are a few but not ideal)

If you remember above I mentioned four goals I have for my pond requirements, the remaining two were Microclimate and Edible Plants, with microclimate I have placed my small pond at the base of my squash / pumpkin trellis, the pond will reflect sunlight underneath the leaves of the sprawling / climbing plants and assist in the microclimate by storing heat and slowly releasing it at night.

In terms of edible plants, since my pond is quite small I am only going to have water mint at this time as my regular mint (in a pot) is not doing so well, so at this early stage I’m going to only experiment and see how it goes, water mint is also very beneficial to bees and pollinators so it definitely ticks a box in terms of Permaculture.

I stumbled on the folder of last year’s growing season, photo wise I was probably a lot more enthusiastic in previous years and so, I didn’t take many in 2014, there were a few good ones though …

One Funky Looking Caterpillar munching on my ornamental Roses

Large Courgette (Zuccini), Beefsteak, Gardeners Delight and Moneymaker Tomatoes (All grown Organically using permaculture methods)

Organically Grown Strawberry peeking from behind leaves

Female Pumpkin Flowers

Organically Grown Baby Plum Tomatoes, these were delicious and the seeds were saved from store bought Spanish tomatoes

Limnanthes Douglasii ( Poached Egg Plant ) nestled nicely in a border

The Poached Egg Plant ( Limnanthes Douglasii ) is said to be one of the earliest flowering plants in the UK / Northern Hemispheric climates, therefore provides an early supply of pollen for bees and other pollinators, whilst also bringing them into your garden!

Limnanthes Douglasii ( Poached Egg Plant ) Closeup

The other benefit of the plant, is it is a great self seeder! In Permcaulture, this is very valuable in order to use less energy in maintaining your garden! simply designate a place (or a few spots) in your garden for this plant and thereafter you will not have to do much maintenance such as annual bedding usually takes to get going! ie: obtaining seeds, compost, pots or seed trays, growing, transplanting into smaller pots then finally outside – in this case, the mother plant dies down in mid – late summer and the seeds can then start germinating once the mother is cleared away for composting…

This will ensure plants growing into Autumn or until the frosts kill them off, the same seeds that do not germinate will sit in place until next spring.

Poached Egg Plant ( Limnanthes Douglasii ) – bed full of them!

Wildlife Friendly Shrubs / Park Walkabout.

I took these photo’s sometime either this year or possibly in the Summer of 2013, I’m not entirely sure as I make an effort to visit both Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens at least twice a year (Summer and Autumn).
I was highly appreciative of the chosen Plant varieties I found in some locations, although I am not too sure if they are deliberately chosen for Wildlife or merely ornamental reasons, but I can commend the Royal Parks for what I came across.

Ceanothus (Common Name: California Lilac) makes a great shrub for pollinators

Ceanothus (Common Name: California Lilac) makes a great shrub for pollinators

I found large Ceanothus Shrubs (photo above), these shrubs are always covered in various bee species wherever I see them during the growing season, These shrubs in Hyde Park are most certainly the largest I have ever seen them growing! I sincerely hope they remain like that and not chopped back at some point …
Ceanothus appear on the list of recommended shrubs / plants for beneficial insects and pollinators for the local UK wildlife species.

perovskia and lavendar (2)

Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ closeup

perovskia and lavendar (1)

Lavender and Perovskia Mixed Bed

A good 30 meters away there is a very well designed bed which hosts Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ and Common Lavender (Both of which are very beneficial to pollinators) and of course they were covered in various bee species. This same bed also contained about 3-5 rose varieties, Magnolia Shrubs, Grasses, Purple Leaf Sage, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla Mollis) and Various Bulbs … plus the smell was astounding!!!

Further away I found a nice Buddleja Davidii (also known as: Butterfly Bush) unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of that one! Fortunately, you can see many of them on the track sides when traveling London using the train system …

The people at Friends Of The Earth have information on the best varieties you can grow in your garden/s in the UK for our local species, check the site Here.