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Archive for January, 2015

Snowy Allotment

The weathermen were right the cold weather has arrived, this morning we woke to a snowy winter wonderland there is little chance of doing any outdoor gardening at the moment.

It is too cold to start tidying up the garden, leave dead leaves/vegetation there for at least another month they are homes to many insects and pests such as slugs which although are unwanted provide a welcome meal for birds, frogs, toads and hedgehogs, small twigs/branches will be picked up by the birds to build their nests – a messy garden attracts more wildlife than a tidy one.

Wooden Puddle Duck Boards - Garden Track

It is too wet/frozen to start working on the soil, you can do more harm than good by starting too early, soil can soon become compacted making digging hard work, repeatedly walking on lawns can create a muddy mess, walking on frost covered grass will leave ‘black’ footprints damaging your grass, if you have to cross your lawn why not put down some duckboards they can be easily moved around or removed when not needed and will keep your shoes clean too, they are ideal for laying on your vegetable beds to walk on when you are sowing/planting.

Why not start your gardening year indoors there are lots of jobs that you can do now in preparation for Spring:

  • Have a good sort through your seeds throw away any out of date packets, it is often false economy sowing old seeds as germination rates can be poor and growing time is wasted by re-sowing. Order/buy new seeds, have a look through seed catalogues or on the internet there are thousands of different varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers available with new varieties each year why not have a change and grow something completely different.
  • Make a Sowing Schedule and a Planting Plan that way nothing will get overlooked and every inch of your garden will be used, have a think back to last year’s crops did some do better that others, should they have gone in sooner, would you grow them again this year?

Onions from sets

  • Onion Sets and Seed potatoes are widely available, buy them early whilst all the varieties are available, choose ones that are firm, disease free and have not started sprouting. Onion sets can be planted now individually in pots, put seed potatoes in egg boxes or seed trays to ‘chit’ make sure the ‘rose end’ of each potato is at the top this is where most of the ‘eyes’ are, place in a light frost-free environment such as a cold greenhouse, polytunnel, porch or on your windowsill.
  • Have a spring clean in your greenhouse/polytunnel/potting shed, de-clutter, re-organise and throw away broken and unwanted items. Wash seed trays, pots, sieves, labels, watering cans, water butts and garden tools with Hortisept Pro Garden Disinfectant, hygiene is very important. Give the greenhouse glass a good clean inside and out with Verritex Pro Cleaning Solution to remove the build-up of algae and let in the maximum amount of light, wipe down the staging and wash out the gutters too.

Sneeboer Mattock Garden Tool

  • Garden Tools are very important and may need some maintenance clean, oil and sharpen ready for Spring. If you already have a Propagator it is a good idea to plug it in and check that it is still working.
  • Buy new compost each year for seed sowing and growing on seedlings and young plants, use last year’s bags of potting compost as a mulch or dig in to improve the soil.

Robin in snow 1

  • Keep the bird feeders topped up and wash out regularly, birds need a supply of fresh water to drink and to bathe in (even if it is cold) bird baths are shallow and will soon freeze up.

Keep yourself busy and warm – Spring is just around the corner (I hope)

Gill

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In life there are few certainties and many uncertainties; the British weather has got to be one of the biggest uncertainties, in Britain we have a very varied and changeable climate not just north to south but regional as well which makes it very hard for our weathermen to forecast, even with new technology. The weather affects everything not just your holiday or BBQ, it also has a huge impact on plants, birds, wildlife and even the seasons too, although Spring comes at the same time each year, it can in fact be early brought on by mild temperatures or late if we have prolonged cold spell with freezing temperatures.

Early Small Tortoiseshell

Unseasonal mild weather can bring creatures out of hibernation early, yesterday there was a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly fluttering against the upstairs windows if we had let it out it wouldn’t have survived, it is too cold and there are hardly any flowers about so it would have had no food, as well as being an easy meal for a hungry bird. Thomas managed to catch it in his butterfly net and place it safely in his pop up Butterfly House which he then put in a dark cupboard, it has now gone back to sleep, we shall keep checking on it.

10 Fat Ball Feeding Ring

As I write this there are twelve starlings picking food off the lawn and pushing their beaks into the soft ground trying to find tasty worms or grubs, with half a dozen House Sparrows busy on the Seed Feeders, which are filled with high energy sunflower hearts although they are slightly more expensive than bird seed I find there is little mess or waste, the fat ball feeders are very popular with all the birds and need refilling the most often. The weathermen are predicting another cold snap this week from Wednesday onwards which they say will last well into next week I will be replenishing my stock of bird food to keep the feeders topped up.

We get a lot of Starlings and House Sparrows in our garden (both of which are in decline this has become apparent from the results of The Big Garden Birdwatches over the last 36 years) we also get the odd Blackbird, Wren, Robin and amazingly Goldcrest yet we have very few Blue, Great or Coal Tits, recently we have had regular visits from a family of Log-tailed Tits they are a delight to watch and are my favourite bird, we did the Big Garden Birdwatch at home yesterday (Sunday) we were down on species and numbers compared to last year I think this was partly due to the weather, it was definitely milder than previous days which could possibly mean that the birds were searching and finding food in the fields and hedgerows, I am sure the heavy drizzle didn’t help either.

Here is my ‘forecast’ for the week ahead:

  1. Turning colder
  2. Send in the results of The Big Garden Birdwatch
  3. Buy more Bird Food
  4. Keep the Bird Feeders topped up
  5. Stay warm inside and enjoy watching the birds in your garden

Love your environment – whatever the weather

Gill

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Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder

A Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder provides a high energy treat for the birds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend (24th/25th January) is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch it began in 1979 and is one of the world’s largest wildlife surveys, last year nearly half a million people took part with 7,274,159 birds being counted. Each year the results are collated and are used to compare trends, monitor species, understand how birds are doing and take steps to put things right.

Schools are also invited to take part, they can do the Big Schools Birdwatch anytime this half term until the 13th February, and can Register and download specially designed classroom resources on the RSPB website.

How do you take part?

  1. Register for the Big Garden Birdwatch before this weekend, you will receive an information pack full of advice, information and a Bird ID guide.
  2. Put out bird feeders preferably containing high energy foods as well as a some fresh water, this can be done throughout the year not just during winter or for the Big Garden Birdwatch.
  3. Why not have a go at making your own Bird Cakes? Click here to find out how.

My Fat Ball and Feeder

On the weekend of the Birdwatch

  1. Make sure that your bird feeders are full and fresh water is available.
  2. Get a pen, paper, and a pair of binoculars, if you have some, and have a bird book or guide to birds handy, make it a family activity include as many people as you can, not all birds are easy to spot on the other hand you may suddenly have a large flock which can be difficult to count.
  3. Decide when you are going to do the Birdwatch, birds are often hungry early morning and late afternoon so you have a good chance of spotting a good variety during these times, on a cold dry day you can expect to see more birds than if it is wet and windy.
  4. Sit comfortably and watch the birds for an hour, count and record the highest number of each species of bird that you see at any one time.
  5. Submit your results online or by post by 13th February 2015.

The RSPB are interested in other British wildlife too and are asking you to let them know how often you see any of the following in your garden, park or local area:

Badger, Grey Squirrel, Red Squirrel, Muntjac Deer, Roe Deer, Hedgehog, Slow Worm, Grass Snake.

If you want more information on Feeding Garden Birds click here to have a look at our guide.

Why not practice your Bird Spotting skills before the weekend?

Have a look at our two new Garden Bird Competitions:

In the School Zone ‘Spot’ the 10 hidden garden birds in our wordsearch puzzle and you could win a

Birch Log Nest Box (pictured below)

Birch Log Hole Nest Box

a Wooden Peanut Butter Bird Feeder, a Discovery Seed Feeder and a Fat Ball Feeder.

In the Kids/Family Zone correctly identify the birds shown in the pictures and you could win a

Build Your Own Nest Box Kit (pictured below),

Build Your Own Nest Box

and a Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder.

The closing date for both competitions is 14th March, 2015.

Have a fabulous Bird Watching Weekend, I will be taking part too.

Gill

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