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Archive for May, 2014

Blackbird Nest Box

Have you ever wondered how Blackbirds always manage to find worms in your lawn, they make it look very easy but how do they do it and is it really that easy.

Blackbirds are very intelligent and well adapted birds they use 3 of their senses to locate the worms.

Sight

As Blackbirds scuttle across the lawn they are looking for worms and movement, they will then pause and tilt their heads to see the worms on the ground using one eye as their eyes are positioned at either side of their head (laterally), this also gives them excellent all round vision.

Sound

Birds do not have any visible ears as we do but have ‘audile orifices’ that are covered with a thin layer of feathers. Blackbirds are unique because both of their ‘ears’ are connected to one organ between their ‘ears’ this allows them to work out which direction the sound is coming from, by tilting their head they can pin point more accurately the sound and the worm.

Feel

After looking and listening Blackbirds often locate worms by probing the ground with their beak, which is very sensitive and can sense the tiny movement vibrations made by the worm.

Unfortunately our bodies are not as sophisticated as the Blackbirds but you can still have lots of fun finding worms in your lawn. Why not have a Worm Charming Competition? this could be with your family or friends at Brownies, Cubs or your local Youth Group or on a larger scale why not make it a School fundraising event.

Lumbricus Hortensis (Dendrobaena)

Worm Charming Competition

  1. Mark out a square plot for each competitor leaving plenty of space around each one.
  2. Each competitor has 20 minutes (suggested time) to charm as many worms out of ground within their allocated plot.
  3. No forking or digging allowed.
  4. Place your worms in a suitable container containing damp soil, organic material out of the sun.
  5. The person with the most worms wins.

There are many techniques to try to encourage your worms to the surface including playing music, jumping, dancing, hitting the ground with sticks or with your hands and watering the ground, whatever method you choose be very careful when handling your precious worms try not to pull them too hard and always place them somewhere safe afterwards so that they can return underground.

The Compact WOW Wooden Observation Wormery

If you want to learn more about worms why not consider setting up a wormery in your garden, for lots of fascinating worm facts and how to set up a wormery click here.

Have fun – Love your environment

Gill

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At this time of the year many of us will have pots or trays that are overflowing with young vegetables and flowers that are ready to be planted outside, many of these young plants will have been grown in a porch, conservatory, greenhouse or on the windowsill where they will have got accustomed to warm temperatures. Deciding when to plant out can be quite tricky, although day time temperatures on average are rising, cold snaps, strong winds and clear skies with frosts can damage or even kill your prized plants.

The key to the transition from a warm, cosy environment to the big outdoors is ‘Hardening off’, Hardening off is the process of preparing your tender plants to cope with harsher outdoor conditions including lower temperatures, lower humidity and winds, it can take two to three weeks before they are ready to be planted outdoors. Hardening off will thicken and alter the plant’s leaf structure and increase its waxiness, further new growth will be sturdy and slower than if they are grown in the greenhouse, hardening off frost-sensitive plants will unfortunately not make them hardy.

cold_frame3-01

How to harden off your plants

A cold frame is perfect for hardening off your plants, the clear hinged lid lets in adequate light and can be propped open slightly wider every few days to slowly introduce your plants to outside temperatures, closing it again at night, leave the lid fully open for the last few days prior to planting out. Position your cold frame where it will receive some sun but not all of the day, the best time to begin hardening off is when it is cloudy thus avoiding high afternoon temperatures and frosty nights, the insulating wooden frame will help maintain temperatures overnight.

Standard MINI Cold Frame

Protect your plants from pests

If you have grown some tasty crops you can be sure that if not protected the slugs and snails will get to them first, apply copper slug and snail tape around the top of the cold frame to stop them from coming in, if you have any small gaps around the cold frame base sit your plants on a layer of slug gone this irritates the slugs/snails foot and they will look for food elsewhere. Place enviromesh netting over the cold frame to protect your crops from insects whilst they are at their most vulnerable.

Slug

Use your Cold Frame all year round

Cold frames are very useful, they can be used to extend the growing season, crops can be started off earlier in a cold frame than if they were sown/planted directly in the ground, frost tender crops grown in containers can be protected in a cold frame from Autumn frosts to extend cropping. Tender plants can be overwintered in a cold frame. Fruits and Vegetables that benefit from higher temperatures i.e. Melons, Chillies will produce a better crop if grown in a Cold Frame.

Red Chillies

Happy Gardening

Gill

 

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This week is Hedgehog Awareness Week (4-10 May) with ‘hedgehoggy’ events being held around the country, it is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and aims to highlight the problems that Hedgehogs face and how we can help them.

Hedgehogs are secretive, beautiful and fascinating creatures they are especially loved by children and welcomed by gardeners yet there has been a sharp decline in their numbers. Throughout Spring, Summer and Autumn they will eat many of our unwanted garden pests, including slugs (up to 80 a night), snails, beetles and caterpillars, in a totally environmentally friendly way.

During May female Hedgehogs will be pregnant with their young due to be born in June/July there are usually 4-5 in a litter but unfortunately only 2 or 3 survive, the babies (Hoglets) are born blind, pale pink and spineless but after only 2-3 minutes their spines begin to appear, the young stay in the nest and feed on their mother’s milk, after 3-4 weeks they will leave their warm and safe home and go foraging for food with their mother. If you find a hedgehog nest do not disturb it or handle the young as the mother may abandon them.

 The Original hedgehog house

The Hogitat Hedgehog House

 The Hogitat

How can we help?

Provide a safe home for female hedgehogs to rear their young, there are various types of Hedgehog Houses available, place them in a quiet part of the garden preferably against a bank, wall or fence and to avoid cold winds make sure that the entrance does not face North or North East. Make your hedgehog house more welcoming by placing twigs, leaves and short grass on top and around the house and some dry leaves and grass inside.

Hedgehog Food

A quick ready meal of Hedgehog food will be welcome to the mother and her young hedgehogs, place out of the way of other animals, birds and pets along with a dish of fresh water.

Hedgehog Feeding Bowl

It would be such a shame to lose these delightful creatures if you see one enjoy watching it quietly from a short distance, they should not be touched or picked up unless absolutely necessary.

Field Guide to Hedgehogs

If you want to know more about Hedgehogs why not treat yourself to a Hedgehog Field Guide this four page guide includes lots of facts and information on feeding and encouraging hedgehogs into your garden.

Love your environment

Gill

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My front garden is at its best at the moment it is packed full of Bluebells, not an inch of soil can be seen, it looks stunning and the heady sweet perfume that greets me when I open the front door is wonderful the Bees love the Bluebells too.

Bluebells in front garden

Hybrid Bluebells in my garden

There are actually 3 types of Bluebell in the UK

The English (native) Bluebell

The narrow bell shaped flowers are violet-blue with straight-sided petals which curl deeply back at the tips, they hang from the same side of the stem which droops over to form an arch, their pollen is creamy white and their leaves are narrow (0.7-2cm wide).

The Spanish Bluebell

Originally from Spain and Portugal their larger flowers open wider with the petal tips curling back only slightly, most flowers are arranged all around the stem which is straight and does not hang over. The flowers can be pale to mid blue, white or pink and the pollen is deep blue they have wider leaves (3-3.5cm) across.

The Hybrid Bluebell – a cross between the native Bluebell and the Spanish Bluebell

The flowers can range from dark to pale blue, pink or white with pale to deep blue pollen and may hang from one side or all around the stem, they can show characteristics from both parent Bluebells.

When identifying Bluebells it is important to look at the flowers that have just opened.

English Bluebells and Spanish Bluebells can spread quite quickly and can sometimes become a problem but there is concern that the Hybrid Bluebell could potentially take over from our Native Bluebell, gardeners have been advised not to grow Spanish Bluebells in rural gardens close to woodland where the English Bluebell is growing.

The woodlands of the UK are home to almost 50% of the global population of our native Bluebell which means that it is very important that do all we can to keep this iconic spring flower.

If you are digging up Bluebell bulbs in your garden dispose of the bulbs carefully, never plant or discard them in the countryside and make sure the bulbs are dead by drying them out thoroughly before putting them on the compost.

A woodland carpet of Bluebells is a wonderful sight, this Bank holiday weekend if you get the opportunity why not get outdoors and enjoy the Bluebells where you live.

Have a lovely Bank Holiday Weekend

Gill

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