Tag Archives: conservation

Summer Rewards The Work Of Spring and Butterflies Where Are You?

Buddleia for the butterflies

Buddleia for the butterflies

Spring is hard work in the garden. Digging, weeding, the preparation of vegetable beds and the propagation of flowers for those bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinating insects.

Summer brings the rewards, as well as the maintenance jobs and late summer sowings.

We’re now eating lettuce, khol rabi, turnip, a bumper crop of new potatoes, strawberries, beans (runner and French) radish and leaf beet. Tomatoes are delicious and aubergines are forming in the greenhouse. Delightful! I’m now a little frustrated, as I tripped and fell flat on my face on a hard wooden floor a couple of days ago, and muscles and bruising now have to be rested and nursed better. So how I’m going to remove the foxgloves, dead head the ladies mantle and other plants that will seed everywhere I don’t know. I also want to sow more beetroot and spring onions. Despite all the stuff that seems to be growing well, spring onions aren’t. I don’t know why I’m having such trouble with them, as they are normally easy to grow, but this year I’m having to buy them in. Very few have germinated and grown. Maybe I need to change to another seed supplier for them, or grow them in a different spot.

Wow, just went out to get some veg for lunch and realised what a great crop of Dwarf French beans we have. I’ve grown the climbing variety before but didn’t have room for the dwarf ones. They’re quite prolific and will definitely be on next year’s grow list, as they’re my partners favourite! Some you lose, but others you win. I’ve already got a small later crop sown in a container, so we should have even more to come.

Using Painted Lady runner beans seems to have helped keep the pigeons at bay, too, so my runner crop has set much better than last year, with less nipped off pods. I’m glad pigeons aren’t more intelligent! Now the beans just need a little time to develop. They are MY favourite! I could eat a plateful at a time.

Cosmos for the Butterflies

Cosmos for the Butterflies

The rest of the garden is great at the moment, with lots of flowers chosen to attract the insects, especially butterflies. So where are they? I have cosmos, buddleia, sedums and different daisies in flower now, but very few visiting butterflies. Even the verbena bonariensis has only attracted the odd small tortoishell. Disappointing and worrying. Are numbers really that low? Bees are here. I’ve even spotted a leaf cutter bee nesting in one of my alpine troughs, and I think is what is carving up my dahlia leaves,  and hoverflies are here too. So please come, butterflies. There’s a whole snack bar waiting for you!

Pallet Planter For ME

Pallet Planter For ME

Our experiment with a pallet planters is a resounding success. We made one into a wall planter for alpine strawberries (better than opal fruits for a burst of flavour) and the other into a free standing planter for my precious flowers, mainly fuchsias. That stands against a fence which was bare and boring before, but not now. Re-cycling at its best!

 

Happy New Moon Year for 1014

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I’ve been neglecting this blog and for that I’m very sorry. There are a few very personal but pressing family and health reasons why I had to let things go a bit awry. I can’t go into them here, but trust me, it made blogging nigh on impossible.

But, with a new moon on New Year’s Day, I’m hoping things will turn around and allow me to live my life the way I’d like to. That includes blogging here. I’ve been a keen amateur naturalist and gardener all my life as well as loving photography. I’ve just had another birthday. As I’ve had quite a few now, it occurred to me I’d be being very selfish if I didn’t share what I’d learned and what I’m still learning. So I’m going to try and be less selfish and pass on what I think might help people wanting a greener, cheaper or more rewarding existence than our society tells us is ‘the norm’. There are better ways to live than feeling helpless, seeing problems and hoping it will all magically get better.

As time goes on, ‘life’s too short, mate’ seems to appear in bigger and bolder fonts in my mind. Too short to let opportunities go. Too short to hold grudges and far too short to let this old world with all its problems stop us from being ourselves and doing what we know to be right.

It’s too short not to have fun. Too short to be trapped by debt. Too short to not treasure our natural surroundings. We bought a house backing onto fields we thought would never be built on. Wrong. They’ve got planning permission and building will start shortly. I was really upset at first. But the fight is over, and I have 120ft of garden. So I will make the most of what I have.

There are plans afoot. Watch this space. I do need help as I have serious health problems. I will find that help. I want a wildlife pond. My shed needs moving so I can have raised veggie beds and leave room for a fire pit and wild flowers. I need to build a gravel path. My front garden is a mess and should be welcoming. All will somehow be done. A lot didn’t happen this last year which now HAS to happen this year. And you can join me on the journey.

If you have the will, encourage me. If you have a tip, please tell me. I’ll share my journey with you. Will you share yours?Image

Moths – The Night Economy Butterflies Visit In Droves

Moth On Bergamot. Taken with flash

Moth On Bergamot. Taken with flash

Yesterday I went into the garden at dusk. I was greeted by a sight I’ve never seen before. Moths. In their droves. They were drawn by the bergamot, a herb I planted for the bees and myself. It’s a beautifully scented flower used to flavour Earl Grey tea. They don’t rest on the flowers like our daytime butterflies, but hover and feed on the wing. At least, those I could see were doing just that. I managed to get a photo using flash, but of course it’s not perfect, but does demonstrate their behavior nicely. You can actually see its proboscis delving into the flower for its pollen. I was overjoyed!

All our insects are suffering drops in numbers, including our moths. There is no difference between butterflies and moths, except their day/nighttime habits in this world, and they are pollinators of many flowers. They are another part of our eco-system suffering habitat and food plant loss and need our conservation efforts as much as a daytime butterfly or bee.

Once I’d spotted a species on the bergamot I started peering around to see of they were visiting any other flowers. Indeed they were. The buddlia was busy with them, as was the honeysuckle and dahlias. So when you feed the bees and the butterflies you are also keeping many moth species fed too. So many people have said to me that they love butterflies but hate moths. My reply is that to an entemologist there is no difference. They are all scaled, winged insects. Then I ask them if they’ve ever seen some of these beautiful creatures. I have a book full of stunning photos of moths. Burnets have gorgeous markings.There’s one on the chart for the Big Butterfly Count and I’ve posted here a photo of another of our moths, just to give you an idea of how stunning they can be. And they deserve our support. Why not make space for some nectar rich flowers?

Oleander Hawk Moth

Oleander Hawk Moth

Butterflies Everywhere

Comma Butterfly

Comma Butterfly

I am delighted! The last year’s work to install in my garden plants for the butterflies and bees has been so worthwhile. Today I’ve noted many species of bumblebees, honeybees, comma butterflies, gatekeepers, green veined whites, small whites, peacocks and meadow browns. The marjoram is smothered in both bees and butterflies, and the buddleia of course in butterflies (the peacocks especially). Next year will be even better, as I’m busy making more plants to extend the flower beds and I’m saving seed or cuttings of every flower that’s nectar or food for them. I also intend to make bug houses and a bat box. For now I will of course be adding my sightings to the Big Butterfly Count so that better conservation can be achieved. Come on in wildlife! What are you doing to help wildlife? I’d love to know. And if you’ve any tips….please leave them for us all.

Green Veined White Butterfly

Green Veined White Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Gatekeeper Butterfly

Gatekeeper Butterfly

Plant It And They Will Come

Mullein Moth Caterpillars

Mullein Moth Caterpillars

Last year, when I went to a specialist herb centre in the Cotswolds, I bought a mullein plant. The plant was new to me, but I understood it would be great for bees to feed on, so home it came. The rosette of woolly leaves grew steadily, despite all last year’s rain, then withstood the icy winter. Up it came this spring and produced flower spikes. When I looked closely, I found caterpillars were gorging on it. I decided to share the plant with them and left them there. I discovered these pretty creatures were larvae of the mullein moth, which looks like a twig, and is no-where near as pretty as the juvenile form, but I don’t care. Diversity and keeping balance is what I’m about. I thought I was sacrificing the flower, but no. What a gorgeous display, and the bees can have their share now, too. mullein

Easy Grow Bee Plant

Dahlias Feed Bees

Dahlias Feed Bees

Back in March, using all my optimism, given the snowfall and cold I sowed some seed of dahlia Coltness Hybrids. These dahlias are single or double flowered, so still have plenty of pollen on offer, unlike the overblown, full petalled ones. Carefully nurtured, they are now in full flower and are attracting all kinds of bees. The orange ones seem to get more attention than the red ones which germinated. I will be saving the tubers which have no doubt formed, and taking cuttings next spring to increase the colours I want more of. What a delightfully cheap way to help save the bees, and I get to sit and watch them when having coffee on the patio. Wildlife needs our help and I need colour! What flower choices do you make for the bees? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Make a Simple Bird Box For Free

Robin open nest box

Nest Box

I’m not a DIY expert. I’ve only ever used a jigsaw twice, twenty years ago. But yesterday, in an hour, I was cutting straight lines and had made a nest box for robins. It was so easy I wonder why I haven’t done it before. We’ve been fencing the garden, building raised beds and had lots of scrap pieces of gravel board wood, 18mm thick and roughly 15 cm wide. Size is not critical, but the recommended floor area should be a minimum of 10cm x 10cm. The minimum thickness recommended by the RSPB is 15mm for insulation from heat and cold. So, determined to help the birds as much as I can and having been delighted to watch a Robin family being fed by their parents this year, I wanted to encourage them to move in. We have native hedgerow running down one side of the garden so as Robins like plenty of cover, that is where the box will live. Then it’s fingers crossed for next year.

Here are the dimensions I used if you want to make your own.

Back 500mm x 150mm

Lid 150mmx 265mm

Sides (cut two) 150mm x 265mm sloping to 312mm at the back

Front 150mm x 135mm

Base 150mm x 120mm

Cut all pieces with a jigsaw or handblade. To make sure you don’t make mistakes when putting the box together, as I nearly did, check at each stage that the box will sit on the base neatly as you go.

Start by attaching the sides to the back, then the front. secure to the base then the trickiest bit is the lid. I used some old car seat belt strapping to make a hinge so the lid can be opened for cleaning, though this isn’t absolutely necessary for an open box, it will make life easier when the time comes. A hook and eye latch at the side will stop predators lifting the lid.

Perfection, when making nest boxes is not required. some ventilation is needed and some way of rain escaping if it gets in. So don’t glue the box together or try to seal any slight gaps at the joins. This is the perfect project for a beginner! I painted mine on the outside only with the same colour fence paint so it will blend in with the hedge. I used non-toxic wax based fence paint. Do be careful that any paint you do use is safe for animals and birds! You could decorate your box and way you like, but don’t add any perches or paint the inside.

For lots more on birds, bird boxes and conservation try these links

BBC Springwatch website, which is loaded with links and information on birds and all other UK wildlife 

BTO Nest Record Scheme

NTO Nest Box Challenge

Making and siting nest boxes, plus lots more information at the RSPB

robin