Tuesday, 26 May 2015

 I realised after some prompting from a fellow blogger that it has been an awfully long time since last updated this blog, no excuses I am just lazy. Anyway it does mean I have lots to talk about.

over the last couple of years I have been remodeling the garden to become more wildlife friendly and a more relaxing place to sit and relax.
 To achieve this I have created a wildflower area of approximately 100 sq feet. This has taken a lot of management (ironic that!) as in the first year it was dominated by thistles which in turn self seeded, this has resulted in a lot of weeding this spring to reduce the number.
As you can see I have placed various benches an seats around the garden, as the bed grows up these become more isolated in their own little spaces.

The aim is that if sit on a bench you will be almost hidden from the others, this worked last year with the 8 ft high thistles but hopefully the effect will be more gentle this year.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

I'm back

Well its been a while, but I am back thanks to a prod from Lucy C on one of my other blogs. Anyway I thought a quick post to show you a little of what I have been up to in the garden. I got fed up last year with growing the usual stuff in the greenhouse so I decided to convert it into an alpine house the photos below some of the highlights so far. I will post more details soon...promise!


View of alpine bed








Tuesday, 26 March 2013

As you will have noticed I haven't been updating this blog recently.

I do have a new blog at:

http://willowsprints.blogspot.co.uk/

Please join me there


Gary


Friday, 1 April 2011

Experiments in Charcuterie pt 1

I was listening to the food programme on radio 4 a week or so back when they did a review of home curing and smoking. Now like a lot of people I thought this was some mystical art done by specialists, however this is not the case, it is in fact very easy. In the last couple of years I have been making all our bread, we produce our own eggs (well the hens do!) I have even made my own butter (something else that's so simple) so now it's time to make bacon.

The ingredients are just equal quantities of soft brown sugar and sea salt (not table salt) I used about 300 g's of each and a piece of belly pork


Massage the pork in the mix, working it into folds in the meat.


Once the mix has been well worked in place the meat in a container or a sealed bag.


You then place the container in the fridge. This is our beer fridge in the bar/studio in the garden so it is out of the way of Sharron who is vegetarian and doesn't like the idea of seeing my experiment every time see gets the milk out!

You now leave the meat in the fridge for about a week, but you have to massage it every day. I will post the next stage next week.

The other thing I want to try is smoking meat/fish so over the next week or so I will put together what I need to do this and share it with you.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Some colour at last.

After what has seemed a long cold winter the garden is at last coming to life. The Hellebores that I transplanted last year to a position at the base of our walnut are looking magnificent, it is worth living all year with their untidy foliage for the display of colour in the spring.

Another star of the spring garden are these violets. Again I have been transplanting them around the garden, these are around the base of a dogwood and remain hidden for most of the year. I have a few I have picked on the windowsill in my office just for the delicate scent.



Of course the champion of spring colour must be the daffs and narcisi, I have planted these all around the garden and left them to naturalise.

The glorious weather last weekend actually allowed us to have a lunch in the garden, and allowed me to cut the lawn for the second time this year. It feels like I am beginning to get on top of the garden at last, over the winter I have been stuck indoors knowing what needed to be done but unable to do it due to the frozen ground and the bad weather. The other nice thing this year is we haven't got any major events like big birthdays so we aren't planning any big garden parties. This means I can start to develop my planting etc without the pressure to get the garden ready for a target, such as a splash of colour in early July.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Wildlife Gardening Part 3 Bee Boxes, insects and other animals


It is important in a wildlife garden to provide areas for as much wildlife as possible. The easiest and most important are insects not only are they a major part of the biodiversity in the garden but also beneficial. In the UK Bees are under a lot of pressure from agricultural processes and insecticides so we should do as much as possible to help them.

My first Bee box is this one designed to provide a home for bumble bees.

It is full of nesting material and has a small entrance hole on the front. It needs to be placed near a food source such as early flowering plants.


My second Bee box is designed for leaf cutter bees, these use small sections of leaf to line tubes in which they lay their eggs. This box is really nice as it has clear plastic tubes which allow you to view the occupants.



You can see in these photo's the nests the bees made last year


I also have these two bee boxes for solitary bees, both are placed near good food sources such as lavender




Bees are not the only insect it is worth encouraging into the garden, this is a lacewing box although it may also be used by ladybirds. Both these insects are great in the garden as they feed on aphids


The other two boxes I have in the garden are for mammals. The first is this hedgehog box, which is placed in a quiet spot of the garden for minimal disturbance by the dogs. In the autumn in bury it in leaves to make it more welcoming to any hedgehog looking for an overwintering site.

The second mammal box is this Bat box on our walnut tree. This box has been in place for several years but although we get a lot of bats over the garden sadly it has not been used yet. This is not unusual as bats tend to reuse nesting sites annually so it is only when they are disturbed that they will seek new sites.



Finally if you are interested in Bees you must vist. www.pencilandleaf.blogspot.com where you will find some beautiful illustrations of bees.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Wildlife gardening Part2 Feeders

Probably the best way to attract wildlife into your garden is to provide a supply of food. You can of course do this by planting plants that are good food sources such as Sunflowers , Teasels etc, but these only supply food when they are in seed. In order to provide an all year supply you need to use feeders.

We use several different types containing different food types tailored to the different birds we get in the garden.

The first type is the general mixed seed feeder. We have a couple of these, the mix contains sunflower seeds, corn, maize and a mix of other seeds. It attracts a variety of birds, mainly Sparrows, Chaffinches, Blue tits, Great tits and Robins. Occasionally Starlings will have a go but generally they clear up dropped seeds with the help of Collard Doves, Pheasants, Dunnock and wood Pigeon.















The next feeder is the Peanut feeder, This is a good source of high energy food for birds such as tits which will feed from it during the breeding season while providing live food collected from the garden for their young.
















This is our newest feeder and contains Red Millet, this small seed is very popular with Tree Sparrows. A friend of ours in the Village has been feeding Red Millet for a couple of years and has attracted up to 50 birds into his garden at any one time which is really encouraging for a bird that is actually quite rare in the UK.

















The other specialised feeder we have is this Niger Seed (Thistle) feeder. This feeder is specifically for Goldfinches. A word of warning about Niger Feeders, firstly the seed is very expensive, secondly the birds will empty it in a day and thirdly it makes a huge mess, we have ours over concrete so the mess gets cleared by ground feeding birds, if you put it over soil you will get a crop of thistles. Having said all this it is my favourite feeder as we get up to 10 Goldfinches into the garden at a time and they are among the most beautiful of all British Birds.

















Finally a brief note about location. This mixed feeder is at the far end of the garden close to some of the nest boxes. This has a double purpose, first to attract birds to where the nest boxes are and then to provide any nesting birds with a handy food supply.
















It is also important to place feeders in positions that are predator free and near a source of water. The other important thing is place the feeder where you can see it, I can see all of ours from the window in my office where I keep a pair of Binoculars handy to help me de stress during the day.