Monthly Archives: April 2014

Bees & Butterflies

Yesterday we attended a Bee and Butterfly Monitoring Scheme course at the Country Life Museum, run by the National Biodiversity Data Centre. They are trying to encourage more people to take part in two monitoring schemes they have – one for bees (information on http://pollinators.biodiversityireland.ie/recording-schemes/bumblebee-monitoring-scheme/) and the other for butterflies (http://butterflies.biodiversityireland.ie/). It was a great day and we learned some good tips on identifying the different species. So today in between trying to plant seeds I was also keeping an eye out for what bees were using our garden. Common carder bees appear, at least at the moment, to be most common. Some of the ragged jack kale is flowering and they seem to love that. But they were also feeding on the crab apple blossom too. As was a buff tailed bumble, Bombus terrestris. In the polytunnel there was another common carder on the comfrey and what I think was a garden bumblebee bee (Bombus hortorum).

Crab apple blossom

Crab apple blossom without bee as bee was blurred!

Meanwhile I got the kids planting pumpkin seeds. Last year, our single pumpkin was not even the size of a football so this year we have planted four seeds in the hope we get something larger! We also planted a number of other variety of squash. Some Little Gems have already germinated from seeds sown last week – these I saved myself so I am not sure yet if they will successfully produce squash. Meanwhile work on the greenhouse has started and I hope to update you all this week with progress. Very exciting!

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Happy Easter

A wonderful, warm, sunny Easter Sunday here in the west of Ireland. A perfect day for egg hunting and gardening. There are so many jobs to do at this time of year that I find I need to set myself a daily task. Today is was clearing weeds and raking some of the raised beds and getting more seed in. The kids helped plant the beetroot and parsnip seed. It was the same parsnip seed my son helped me save last autumn. Afterwards I also planted spinach, lettuce, rocket and other greens, along with some lettuce plants that had been started off in the polytunnel. This adds to the carrot and hamburger parsley seed planted yesterday. And the broad bean and mangetout plants that were planted out a couple of days ago. I love this time of year when things start growing. Everything is so fresh and green, the birds are singing and the butterflies and bees are getting more plentiful. The pear tree is in full blossom now – the best I’ve seen it. The apples trees are not far behind.

Pear Blossom

Pear Blossom

Happy Easter

Happy Easter

Spring vegetables

We have been harvesting the nine star perennial broccoli for about a week now. It makes a nice addition to the purple sprouting broccoli and is prolific. Inside the polytunnel things are growing well too. We’ve just started harvesting baby lettuce leaves, turnip tops, mizuna and mibuna (oriental greens), though the rocket is a little slow. Leaf beet that was planted last autumn is looking great too but as temperatures warm up it will be inclined to bolt. Still it is a lovely addition to stews and other one-pot dishes. Outside the plum and damson trees are in blossom and the pear tree is not far behind.

Nine Star Broccoli

Nine Star Broccoli – a central head much like cauliflower and lots of side shoots like sprouting broccoli

Some of the broad beans, which are looking good, were finally planted out into the tunnel today from the root trainers. I am hardening off the rest to go outside. I really need to get seeds sown out into the vegetables plots now (e.g carrots and parsnips) but I have to work tomorrow so I’ll be away all day so it’ll probably have to wait till next weekend. There are seed potatoes and onions to be set out in new area too, but on the positive side we did get the new fence up today so the area is now ‘safe’ from livestock. It’s amazing how the children have found new places to play in our ‘new’ fields. It is not that these places haven’t always been there but now the access is simpler (just a gap in the fence direct from our own garden) plus they know it is now ‘ours’. There is a hawthorn tree with a handy seat, and the mounds are perfect for hiding behind when playing hide and seek. They are also good for running over and the water gathering in the lower most swale is just brilliant for messing about in.

Wild Pollinators

Now that things are finally warming up a little we are beginning to see a few more wild pollinators in and around the garden. This one is a hoverfly. I had at first mistaken it for a bee but it was pointed out to me that it had only one pair of wings. In addition, hoverflies tend to have much bigger compound eyes than bees. Many of them are hard to tell apart. This one is a species of Eristalis.

Hoverfly - Eristalis species

Hoverfly – Eristalis species on Lesser celandine

 

Further fruit and nut plantings

A beautiful spring day today and just as well with so many jobs to do in the garden. Part of the field to the south of the house has also been landscaped for new planting. This is a sloping area. The top is gravel and the bottom is peat so very different soils. This time swales have been created. These are mounds running across the slope to manage rainfall and nutrient loss. Sea buckthorn have been planted on the top mound, followed by cobnuts interspersed with apples and then small leaved lime. The bottom area has just been dug over and here I hope to plant potatoes, cabbages and onions.

 

Swales

Swales