Once I see the blossom of the wild plum trees, I know that spring is on its way. In spite of, or perhaps because of, my neglect of the old orchard, the area is awash with clumps of the common snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis. All of these, and the crocus, came from a handful I relocated from the grassy area between the house and the vegetable plot. I split some clumps last year and I will do the same again. For the first time I will extend the planting into the new orchard.
Seeing the honeybees flying amongst the blossom and the snowdrops reminded me on how very important these early flowers are.
We have been toying with the idea of turning the new orchard grassland into a flowering meadow. The reality is that the rye grass is too dominant to easily replace with a summer flowering meadow so we’ve decided that we shall concentrate on spring flowers. Last year we made a start and planted over a thousand bulbs. I spotted the first signs of the Narcissus today.
The mowing regime of a spring flowering, (February to May), meadow differs from that of a summer one in that the grass is cut from late June to autumn. This allows any seed to be deposited and bulbs to gain maximum benefit from allowing their leaves to die back naturally. I intend to plant more bulbs of those species we put in last year, plus the relocated snowdrops. I’m also considering Camassia, foxgloves and perhaps one, (or two!), of the cultivars that Dan Pearson trialled.
We’re supposed to be heading for warmer temperatures this week. Hope so, as it’s been brass monkeys round here. Which is why we’ve switched to clearing the polytunnel. Of course, if I was Charles Dowding, the tunnel would be full of overwintered salads, rather than a fine crop of chickweed and grass that germinated from the compost added earlier in the year.
I’ve planted the first broad beans, (Sutton and Crimson flowered), into the polytunnel bed
which means I can sow another batch for outside thereby reducing the loo roll mountain that we’ve accumulated over the last year…
Again I’ve sown ‘Sutton’ and Crimson flowered as well as my last few seeds of ‘Bunyard’s Exhibition’ and a new acquisition ‘Stereo’. According to Sarah Raven, ‘Stereo’ is ‘famously the best tasting, small, tender broad bean you can grow, excellent raw or cooked’ – so got to give it a go.
The lovely OH spotted this moth or butterfly pupa on the cover…
I’m hoping it’s something fabulous like a Painted Lady and not a cabbage white. I’ll have to study the pupae on the UK Butterflies site.
It may still be cold but the light is absolutely lovely…
Leaves are falling. The sap flow rate is reducing.
The walnut trees are amongst the first to have shed their leaves. Whilst the foliage contains a toxin, juglone, this breaks down once the leaves are composted which will help to replace our valuable organic reserves for next spring.
The lovely OH has moved wood from the outbuildings and stacked in the log store outside the door.
Ladybirds have come indoors and now congregate in the corners of the window recesses.
The days may be grey but there are still bright sparks to be found….
…and I have time for one of my favourite activities – compiling the seed order for next year.
Reading this week: River Cottage A to Z (not so much a read as a dip in and out, the book is huge!)
The apples are coming into their main season. The thinning earlier this summer has paid dividends; we have good size specimens this year:
We grow about 40 varieties and I love the diversity of the fruit…
L to R Howgate Wonder; Bramley: Egremont Russet; Grenadier; Red Jonathan; Cox Orange Pippen; Pitmaston Pineapple.
We took some damage this year from winter or codling moth larvae so at the beginning of October the lovely OH put on some glue bands
and we will hang a few pheromone traps next spring. Workwise there’s not much to do in the orchard once the apples have been picked, stored away and the grass is given a final cut. We’ll be back for winter pruning around the end of February.
I’m pleased to see a couple of the native European hornet back in the orchard; I spotted them yesterday on the russet apples.
My local paper recently ran a scare story on asian hornets arriving in the locale although the photo the paper printed was clearly a, sadly dead, native hornet. The European hornet is generally docile and should be celebrated!
I’ve made an entry on the ‘Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society‘ website of our visitors, hopefully it helps with somebody’s research.
Back in the 70s, my brothers sported hair to their shoulders, monster collars and cuffs, a natty line in Plasticraft cufflinks and on a least one occasion, very dodgy cravats. All of these elements are long gone and I strongly suspect, never to return. Whilst my brothers’ coiffures have improved by reverting to a closer cut, I can’t say the same for the current, common approach to hedgerow maintenance in our locale.
The cross-compliance regulations mean that, with very few exceptions, the hedgerows cannot be cut between the beginning of March and the end of August. Trouble is, come September, this is what often happens around here:
The hedges are flayed and scalped back drastically. Whilst it is a far cry from the wholesale grubbing out of hedgerows that took place in 60s and 70s I do feel that it cannot be that hard to put in place a more sympathetic management plan. Flaying back so drastically most certainly removes much of the winter food for our wildlife.
This is a SELECTION of what we have in our, uncut, hedges now:
I very much doubt there was much food left in the scalped hedge.
I’d love to live close enough to the sea to fish, though far enough away to escape the effects of salt-laden winds and holiday crowds. If we did, we would most certainly set crab pots. I love brown crab, (Cancer pagurus), far far more than lobster, though I’m also partial to brown shrimps…. and scallops. Mussels too.
The lovely OH goes fishing up in Scotland around this time – usually, he is lucky enough to catch enough fish for the freezer for the coming year.
Hopefully, he will also bring home a brown crab….
We have been turning over the mypex. If it is left down for too long, it starts to meld to the earth, pinned through by coarse grass and dock.
We know this from experience.
On turning a piece in the growing area next to the polytunnel, we chanced upon a common toad, Bufo bufo.
The OH picked him/her up and relocated to the compost heap area.
In my humble opinion, I think the toad has been a bit slack on the slug devouring front. Whilst I have managed to coax the new artichoke plants to come through – on the second attempt, the squashes have been wiped out by marauding molluscs. Although I do have squashes planted in the main vegetable plot, more toad dining activity wouldn’t go amiss.
Less troubled by slugs are the strawberries. We are picking the early variety which is planted beneath the pear trees next to the outer piggery pen wall. The soil is dryer here and probably deters the slug invasion.
These are salad days – crisp Little Gem lettuces, nutty artichoke hearts and tiny peas and broad beans. I pick bunches of sweet peas every day…