Monthly Archives: March 2012

Spanish Bluebell Invasion Hits Home.

Well, the weather has been fantastic for the garden, and I’ve been out there trying to tame ten years or more of neglect. I had looked forward to the bulbs that are prolific in one large, overgrown bed, thinking I had bluebells I could move down into the hedgerow. But it turns out they are Spanish bluebells. Gorgeous, but dangerous for native English bluebells and very invasive. They are bigger, stronger and out-compete our native species. Not only that, but they cross-pollinate the English type to produce hybrids. This would eventually mean the demise of our own native, charming English bluebells. Not something I like to contemplate.

Here’s a photo of our  English bluebells growing with anemones. Charming! If you want to see them closer, just click on the photo.

bluebells

English Bluebells

So the huge job of removing them has begun. They throw out underground runners, seed and tiny bulblets, so it’s going to be several years before they are completely eradicated, even with a little help from glyphosphate.

If you have bluebells in your garden, then it’s worth checking yours are native, too. English ones have flowers down only one side of the stem, causing them to arch beautifully as they open. Spanish ones have flowers all around the stem and stand upright. The leaves are much broader than English bluebells, too. English are only about 1cm wide and the Spanish much more (mine measure 2cm on the larger plants).

If you want to find out more about the problems associated with Spanish Bluebells there’s a BBC video here. For clearly explained and illustrated differences between the two species, have a look at this site.

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No Butts – There’s a drought on!

With this announcement of drought restrictions this summer it looks as though we’d all better take care of what water there is. Not only should we be saving as much as we can in the home, but in the garden where hose pipe bans may mean the difference between a crop growing well or not, water butts will be essential.

drought water butt

Water butt ready for guttering

We’ve just put a new shed in our garden, and have bought guttering to run round it for extra rain collection. It will be fitted very soon. We raised the shed up from the ground to extend its life and left extra space at the end to ensure the water butt is raised and I can easily obtain any water we collect for my precious vegetables.

The greenhouse will also be fitted with a water-butt, and there is already one gathering rain from the house. So, we should be able to avoid turning on a hose pipe!

Inside the house, we have reduced the number of times we flush, make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are always fully loaded before running them and shower rather than bath. Taps are never left running, not even when brushing our teeth or cleaning vegetables. We all need to take care. Not only are supplies low, but rivers are actually drying up or their ecology being damaged by the lack of water flowing through them.

For more information on the drought restrictions now in force or imminent, click here

A very special Post. Welcome to my new grandson

My hearth is especially warm today. Last night at 11.45pm my first grandson made his entrance into this world. Of course he’s the most gorgeous baby since I had my sons! So I’m travelling north tomorrow to meet him, hug my son and daughter-in-law and join the family  celebrations. They’ve waited for three years for this moment and I’m ecstatic for them. So I won’t be able to post for a few days, but I’m sure you’ll understand!

Here’s the first photo of him with my very proud and happy son. Their lifestyle is about to change!

My first grandchild

My first grandchild

Free Fuel with Recycling

Free fuel! Not an easy thing to come by these days, but certainly worth having with the cost of gas and electricity. We were given a paper log maker for Christmas by our friends and have made some out of the years of files my partner needed to cull. They do a great job in out log burner and so far we’ve not had to buy any wood. We’ve either used these excellent paper logs or used wood found discarded (fly tipped) by less thinking members of society. What a great ecological use of waste materials!

This cuts our heating bill by lots! We don’t need to keep the central heating running, as sitting in one room in the evening means we only need to heat that room. It gets so warm we open the door and let the heat escape into the rest of the house, and go to bed cosy. What a lifestyle improvement since we moved from our last home which had central heating and no fireplace.

free-fuel-fire-brick

Free Fuel, Recycled Paper

The gadget for making these logs is a very simple one, and all you have to do is shred paper, leave it in a bucket to soak then cram it into the log maker and press hard to squeeze excess water out. Then you put them somewhere to dry. In the summer this could be in a sheltered spot outside, but we’ve been drying ours in the airing cupboard. Just in case you fancy trying this method, you can buy them here.

free-fuel-lit-fire

Free fuel in the fire

Gardeners: Recycling Tips for Spring

Recycle all you can and save even more money to grow your own food! I’ve just potted up my tomato seedlings, grown in the conservatory to get a good start on the season. I want to grow one for cooking, one for salad and one marmande type for those lovely, juicy huge fruits you can slice and practically make a meal of. I’ve potted them up into old large yogurt cartons with holes in the bottom, made using a hot skewer so they don’t split. The labels are made from old milk containers, cut into strips with scissors. I use a permanent marker to write on them. Ecological use of plastic must be a good thing, don’t you think?

recycled yogurt pot

Recycled Yogurt Pot

Recycled milk container

Recycled Milk Container

Then there’s my favourite tip. Biscuits. You need the boxes. They make excellent little seed trays. There are always some seeds you only want to germinate small quantities of, and normally would be advised to buy quarter sized seed trays. Save your money! Just pack biscuit boxes with compost and sow in them. By the time the seedlings need pricking out, you can put the boxes on the compost heap, so they’ll be twice recycled. The dedication required to eat the biscuits first I’m sure won’t be hard to muster!

Recycled Biscuit Box

Recycled Biscuit Box

What can you recycle in the garden or your home?

Bumble bees visit, spring’s on the wing!

Having spent the day pruning hedges and sorting seedlings, I returned to my conservatory to find two white-tailed bumble bees trapped behind the blinds. Now, last year I was stung by one of these beauties after accidentally disturbing their nest. So with great care, we caught them using the usual jam jar and bit of card method, and released them outside. It was wonderful to see them as well as all the ladybirds (ladybugs) I found while working outside today. Spring is most definitely on the wing! It’s been glorious. Far too warm for the season, but I have to admit it was great to be out there in a T-shirt instead of thermals and a fleece!

I had to take some photos, but used my little canon camera instead of the Nikon. Unfotunately I’m a bit rusty with it, so these shots aren’t excellent quality, but you can still see that the catkins are out, forsythia is flowering (more bee food) and crocus are coming up all over. My son is coming over tonight to work in the garden tomorrow, and I have more seeds to sow, so we’re going to be busy over the next few days. I’ve spoken to my neighbour, ad we’re agreed that improving the environment for the wildlife in both our gardens can only be a good thing. He’s growing his own vegetables, too, and is keen to see our native dividing hedge flourish. All great progress. I love my new lifestyle!

White tailed bumble bee

White tailed bumble bee

catkins spring on the wing

Catkins

spring-on-the-wing-forsythia

Forsythia

ladybirds

Ladybirds (ladybugs)