One problem with expanding the garden is that there are suddenly lots of jobs to do outside and therefore little time for blogging. The pond is slowly filling up with water – naturally from below and also from the rain. Yesterday we gathered some wild mint and bull rush from the drainage ditch just below the field and planted those in. Today we transplanted some reeds from one of the fields close to the river. And we have already seen some whirligig beetles on the surface.
New pond slowly filling with water
Along the fence line, behind the pond, we have created another mound and planted a hawthorn hedge. Plastic has been used to help control weeds as this has been proven to speed up the hedge growth. Two Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas) have also been planted into the hedge. These are not true cherries, but belong to the family Cornaceae – the dogwoods. The fruits are good to eat, though it can take the tree some time before it starts producing fruits (in one book 20 years was quoted, so patience may be required).
On the other mound, 27 cobnuts have been planted. The majority are ‘Hall’s Giant’ because this variety is already doing well in our garden. It’s a hardy and vigorous variety. The other varieties planted are Nottingham (Pearson’s Prolific) and Lange Tidling Zeller. All our cobnuts have come from fruitandnut.ie.
Mounds with Cobnuts
I know it doesn’t look like much now but hopefully in a couple of years this will be a productive strip.
My parents have kindly given us the field below the house. And today, our neighbour and friend Willie arrived with his digger. The field is quite a wet area as the soil is peat. The plan is to create a number of mounds on top of which cobnuts, blueberries and a couple of apple trees will be planted. It is hoped that the mounds will allow free drainage around the trees.
Creating Soil Mounds
Another mound along the southern boundary will be planted as a natural hawthorn hedge. The extra area will also us to expand our poultry flock. We will be creating a pond area for the ducks. We’re hoping not to line the pond but will allow it to fill naturally (with additional water coming from the roof of the workshop). The plan is to plant reeds around the edge. The reeds grow naturally just a couple of fields away near a small river. There are also bull rushes in the nearby drain and we hope to incorporate these too. Hopefully you will see the progress over the next few weeks.
It is already the 23rd March and the weather here in Ireland remains cool and wet. I have therefore decided to concentrate my efforts in the polytunnel for now. So today, I planted some carrot seed and some more radishes (the first sowing of these have already germinated). I had mangetout peas in root trainers so I decided to get these into the ground too and to start of another batch of seeds which will hopefully be ready to go out when the weather warms up a bit. The broad beans, which are also in root trainers, should be ready to plant out into the tunnel next week. I have a few broccoli plants which I had planted in the autumn and overwintered inside. It’s the first time I’ve tried this and I had been meaning to plant out but because of the cool temperatures I have planted them under cover instead.
There are at least four newts in our small garden pond. Like frogs, newts are amphibians and they return to ponds in early spring to breed. They will eat slugs and snails along with other insects, so good to encourage them into your garden. They prefer fish-free ponds with lots of aquatic vegetation. Log piles and undisturbed areas are good for winter hibernation sites. The photograph below was taken two summers ago.
St Patrick’s Day has many traditions, but one of them is sowing your potatoes. I’m afraid I am never organised enough to get potatoes in so early in my outside beds though I have Charlotte potatoes planted in the polytunnel for the last couple of weeks.
Yesterday we watched a male wren collecting nesting material from the flower bed (mainly bits of moss and dried grass). He appears to be nesting in the beech hedge that surrounds the vegetable plot. The males do all the nest building, often building a number of nests. His mate will then come along and choose the one she likes best!
Today we had two buff tailed bumblebees feeding on our croscus flowers. These are likely to be queens. In spring the queen bumbles wake from hibernation. The first thing she needs is some nectar to give her some energy. Then once she has found a suitable nesting site she sets about collecting pollen which she will feed to her developing young. In recent years wild pollinators have suffered declines so I love seeing these bees in our garden. Ireland has 20 native species of bumblebees, 4 of which are endangered. Last year I started to recorded what wild pollinators were visiting our garden. This year I am trying to grow more to provide food for them. They will use flowers on fruit trees (our black currants were popular last year) and vegetables such as runner beans, as well as wild and cultivated varieties of flower. It is important to provide flowers throughout the growing season so that the bees and other pollinators have a constant supply of both nectar and pollen. In addition, some bee species have short tongues and others long tongues so it is also necessary to provide a variety of plants. For more information on Irish pollinators see the following website: ( http://pollinators.biodiversityireland.ie/ )
A pair of long-tailed tits were in the garden today. They are my favourite of all the tits but only ever seem to pass through the garden, often in small flocks. I expect these two are paired for the breeding season. We have numerous coal and great tits feeding on our bird feeders all through the winter, and usually a couple of pairs of blue tits too. We’ve seen a great tit checking out the bird-box on the workshop. This box has a camera in it (we got a present of it a couple of year’s ago) and it wasn’t used last year so it’ll be interesting to see if it will be used this year. It would be great for the kids to see.
Also borrowed the incubator from my parents today. We have half a dozen of our own duck eggs to try out and are hoping to get a few more eggs from our neighbour. The last attempt at hatching using the incubator did not work so we are hoping for more success this time around.
We are currently enjoying our first harvestings of sprouting broccoli, one of my favourite vegetables. This year I have it both in the polytunnel and outside. Check out the Vegetables pages for further information.
Today, after a few days of dry weather I am finally able to do some more weeding in the raised beds of the vegetable plot. The beds with the better soil are a pleasure to weed but those with the poorer soil are still very wet and the soils sticks to everything from hand trowel to gloves. I prefer hand weeding to deep digging. Firstly it is easier on the back! And secondly it disturbs less of the soil organisms which is one of the principles of the ‘No Dig’ method of gardening. Any worms I do dig up are greedily eaten by our two ducks! They get to spend the winter in the vegetable plot. While they may consume a good few worms they also do the service of ridding the garden of many of its slugs and snails.