Monthly Archives: August 2014

Holiday, Wildlife, The Garden and Photography

I’m getting my final packing for my holiday done today. Once the camper is packed and my bed in the back made up, I’ll be able to do the last bit of watering, feeding and harvesting of vegetables to take with me. Thereafter, I’ll be on the road. But I’ll be looking out for inspiration, ideas for my plot. I’ll be spotting wildlife (I hope) with my camera, my binoculars and my scope. With any luck, I’ll be able to keep you informed along the way. If I can’t get an internet connection, I’ll catch up with you when I get home. The camera battery is fully charged and I can’t wait to get out there and take some great shots. I’m after wildlife, flowers, insects etc. I’m learning as I go and every shot of a creature helps me identify them, and in some instances add to general knowledge by including them in the various surveys being done by researchers. You could, too.

Home And Studio For The Next Couple Of Weeks.

Home And Studio For The Next Couple Of Weeks.

 

I’ve found some very interesting areas to survey, and we can all take part. Children would love to join in. Springwatch made the point that all you have to do is show a child a bug and they are instantly interested and fascinated by it. They want to know more. Why not help them learn by looking up the bug? Then add it to a survey, and further conservation efforts, becoming part of the solution. Here’s a list of links you can check out for yourself.

Buglife are looking for a rare beetle, an Oak aphid and more. Their site also offers links to other key wildlife surveys. Suffolk Wildlife Trust need you to record with them hedgehog sitings, anywhere in the UK. Hedgehogs are in big trouble. You’ll also find on this site information about how to help them. Their numbers have dropped considerably, but they’re a great garden friend, so this is one creature we should all be trying to help. Also, The Guardian have published a useful list of links to various surveys and ways to get involved with conservation and wildlife. It was published last year but the links are still relevant. Natures Spot is loaded with information, including great identification photos for insects, tree, birds mammals and anything else you want to find out more about. I have a photo of a fly I’m still trying to ID. It settled on ragwort, as many insects do. It’s a nectar rich plant! Do you know what the fly is? The photo’s at the end of this blog.

Hedgehog

hedgehog

One of the friends I’m going to see is working hard on his new plot of land to create as close to sustainable living for himself as possible. I’m dying to see what he’s up to. He’s on the edge of Dartmoor and has very different circumstances and problems to deal with, including rabbits and deer. I’ll let you know what solutions he’s finding.

Magpie Moth

Magpie Moth

I’ll spend a lot of this holiday taking photos. My interests happily co-exist. Gardening, wildlife, photography all come together for me now. After a lifetime of following them as separate activities, I now combine them all. The photography gives me a way to pass on my experience via my blogs, a chance to identify species that won’t hang around while I get the books out, or a plant I want to ID when I get home, without picking it. It’s also part of my income via iStock, where most of my photos are flower or insect photographs, many of them macro. I love to peer into the tiny world I can’t see with the naked eye. There is beauty in macro form! It’s amazing what can be seen through a macro lens or magnifying glass. That hedgerow or leaf can reveal some amazing detail. Bees dusted in pollen, tiny beetles you didn’t know were there. Stamens on flowers show their shape and form. It’s a whole other world from the one we live in most of the time. The gardening itself provides the material to photo, the space for wildlife to come to, so more things to photo and food for the table!

Unidentified Fly Visitor On Ragwort Flower. Can you help with an ID?

Unidentified Fly Visitor On Ragwort Flower. Can you help with an ID?

 

 

Harvest, Eat, Enjoy

I’ve just Harvested the last few plants of my Charlotte new Potatoes. They’ve been wonderful. I haven’t bought any potatoes for weeks now. And they’ve been delicious. What a change from the stale, shop bought, plastic bagged ones. I’ve also worked out the savings in cost. Price of my seed potatoes, £1 per bag, and I bought 2. That was 20 plants, and each have yielded 2lgs or 1 k of produce. At Tesco prices currently set at £1.25 per kilo, and they’re cheaper now than when I began harvesting, the cost of shop bought is £25 so I’ve saved £23 and had  some really good eating. Can’t be bad!

Now I’m taking cuttings of all those perennials I bought this year. I started with the pinks and lavenders. They require a nice, well drained compost, so I added plenty of grit to the compost and mixed it all before I began, so I could take the cuttings and get them straight in the compost to avoid dehydration. These plants don’t like too much humidity, so I’ll be leaving the pots in a shady spot to root but won’t cover them as they’ll be prone to moulds.

Cuttings Of Lavender And Pinks

Cuttings Of Lavender And Pinks

We’ve also been eating French beans for a few weeks now, and the runners have started to crop. I picked up a great tip recently for runner beans. They apperently don’t like hot nights, and need cooler nights than we’d been having for pods to set. So the answer is to water late evening, and I give them a thorough soaking, then spray the plants as well as the roots, as the humidity also aids pod set. Now I can’t wait to eat them. I sowed some French beans in a container way after the original sowing, and that’s now payinf dividends. I knew I wouldn’t have more space in the ground, but even a container full is a great addition to our plates. The results speak for themselves. French beans are easier to crop in hot weather, too!

French Beans Containerised

French Beans Containerised

I’m a little nervous. I’m going away for a couple of weeks this Thursday, and leaving my partner in charge of the garden. I know he’ll do his best to keep everything watered, but will he remember to cut the sweet peas? Pick the beans to keep them cropping? I can only keep my fingers crossed. I shouldn’t leave it at this time of year, but I’m travelling to see friends in my camper van, so winter visits are not really feasible!

Of course, before I go I’ll do all I can to prepare the garden for my desertion, and hope that August does not become a drought month. I haven’t yet got an automatic watering system, but maybe in the future this will be the answer.

How do you cope with going away?

Gardening Without A Garden

Container Gardeng In A Very Small Space

Container Gardeng In A Very Small Space

If you saw my last post, I was banging on about us all being able to grow a bit of our own food, which is not only great for your health and pocket, but helps with the global food crisis. I’ve just returned from visiting a friend and found a perfect example of container gardening. My friend has a flat with a shared communal garden.  Therefore, the only area in which people can grow  things is outside their windows in a very restricted area. One of the residents has made supreme use of this tiny space, and I thought I’d share her ideas with you. It proves you can have home grown food in a tiny space and you don’t need a huge garden to garden!

Container Garden Sweetcorn

Container Garden Sweetcorn

This lady has made the most of a very small space. It’s about 4’ deep by about 12’ wide under her window. She has sweetcorn, beetroot, runner beans, herbs,  tomatoes, French beans, cucumber, spring onions and even carrots.  I was thrilled to see such a lovely little garden  all without a garden. Everything is in a container, everything growing and cropping well, despite a few nibbles to the beetroot leaves.

Container Garden Herbs

Container Garden Herbs

It’s worth noting that you can eat the young leaves of beetroot, maximising the crop you get out of the space. Young leaves can be put on salads, or stir fried or steamed like spinach. When planning for an area like this, it’s worth thinking about what crops you can eat the most of. Obviously, if the whole plant can be eaten, as is the case with some root vegetables, they make the most of the space.  Salad leaves are great value for space, too, as you can keep coming back for more as the young leaves grow. Any crop that grows upwards  will also make great use of space. The highest yielding crop of all per square foot (or meter) is runner beans. Climbing French beans come a close second, and give you a greater yield than the low growing ones. It’s also worth considering the cost of vegetables and fruit in the shops. Onions and potatoes are relatively cheap, but khol rabi expensive. They taste great, grow quickly and you can eat the leaves like spinach, too, though I find the stalks a bit tough.

Container Garden Beetroot

Container Garden Beetroot

It’s worth trying anything in a container. How about  butternut squash or aubergine (in a good summer). Walls retain and reflect heat, so containers placed like this in a sunny spot can succeed in growing things normally reserved for a greenhouse. Crops will ripen quickly with this additional heat, and you only have to nip outside the door for your dinner.

Container Garden Sweetcorn close up of maturing cob silks

Container Garden Sweetcorn close up of maturing cob silks

Container Garden Peppers

Container Garden Peppers

Here’s a list of vegetables you might want to try in a small space

Beetroot

Lettuce and salad leaves

Spring onions

Squash

Tomatoes

Sweetcorn

Cucumber

Aubergine

Runner beans

French beans

Khol rabi

Baby turnips (great in salads)

Swiss chard (very attractive. Eat leaves and stalks, steamed or stir fried)

Radish (sow a few every three weeks)

Carrots (stump rooted varieties)

All you need is some compost and the will to try. Containers can be made for free. We buy our bird food in plastic buckets. Paint and put holes in the bottom for drainage. And you have a free container. Use pallet wood to make a box container. Even a plastic storage box whose lid has been lost or broken can be turned into an attractive container for vegetables and fruit or herbs. Grow it, cook it and be proud of it!