Thursday, 15 June 2017

Early harvest

The garden is beginning to provide us with its bounty.  We've had a few lovely strawberries from the baskets in the greenhouse, a kilo of gooseberries, rhubarb and some chard from last year's sowing and a handful of sugar snap peas.

We're looking forward to having some broad-beans in a few days and we've had a few meals from potatoes (kestrels) grown in big pots.

Strawberries (Elsante) in the greenhouse im May

The Elsante strawberries which we've had for 2 years produced early but have nearly finished now. We've got some more strawberries from a neighbour which are just ripening now. Don't know the variety.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Seed-head feeds

The spring flowers, like aquilegias, bergenias, bistorts have mostly gone over now leaving heads of dead flowers - which are turning into nice, ripe seeds. The general view of gardening is to dead-head to preserve the strength of the plant for next year and to tidy up. But don't be too hasty - seed heads provide a great food source for birds, especially needed at this time of year to feed hungry youngsters and second broods.

We were delighted yesterday by a pair of bullfinches feeding on the aquilegia seeds, the male resplendent with his orange-red chest and his more sombre brown mate. While we were watching them a goldfinch perched on a bergenia seed-head and pecked energetically before moving on to another dead flower (a blue flower like a cornflower - don't know it's proper name.)

The goldfinches are nesting in a neighbour's conifer.

Keen to have a balanced, diet the bullfinches had a feed of aphids on our roses before they left us. (Thank you guys!)

The other beauty of not cutting back too quickly is you get seedlings, or you can be organised and collect the seeds and sow them in pots. Also the seed heads are quite attractive as garden features. (I knew I could justify my lazy gardening style!)

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Rabbits in the Rhubarb

Our garden is surrounded on 3 sides by a field. We used to call this "Billy's Field" after the previous owner - a local farmer. Now it's owned by the family that bought the old School House at the top of the road. They're not farming types, so let it out to a guy that uses it during the summer for young expectant-mum cows. They have a lovely time on the lush meadow - long grass, buttercups and other wild flowers and a little stream running down the middle.

It's also home to an increasing number of rabbits. The ground is undulating with a large embankment which used to hold a rail track to service Peggs Green and other mines. So there are lovely banks just perfect for building warrens. We used to have foxes. They'd often come in the garden and sometimes take food put out for the birds (hungry mums with pups to feed probably). But not so many recently. Also the farmer used to shoot rabbits from time to time which kept the numbers down. So bunnies are flourishing.

We're used seeing them hopping about under the apple trees and occasionally around the vegetable beds. We saw tell-tale signs of fur on the twigs I put in to protect the sugar-snap peas I planted. However, they have set up home in the Rhubarb Patch!

We have been gradually reorganising the rhubarb beds to get rid of the choking weeds and have a nice fresh bed into which we have planted the rhubarb which over-wintered in pots. The bunnies have moved into the weedy rhubarb bed, nice and protected with the large umbrella-like leaves.
Here's a picture from last year - so you can see it's ideal bunny-wise!

Home for bunnies
However, they haven't got a paradise. Yesterday morning I found the back half of a small rabbit and various bits of entrails on our back step. Our neighbour's cat, Nip, is a great hunter and often takes pigeons, mice, rats as well as young rabbits - so he's the likely culprit. But it could also have been a buzzard which are plentiful here.