Monthly Archives: September 2014

Crows find pears

As a gardener, one needs to be on the look out for pests and disease. The photo below shows the result of some grey crows attacking our pears. About ten pears were damaged, some like this, others with just a peck taken out of them.

Pear damage

Pear damage

It’s meant we have had to harvest and store the fruit rather than risk losing more of the crop. They are pretty delicious so I can’t actual blame the crows for wanting to try them.

Pear

Pear

Last year, when we had a a very small crop of plums (about 6), the magpies stole them before they were even ripe. Someone (I can’t remember who but they were a wise person) once said to me, you should always grow twice what you need, one half for yourself and the other half for all the little creatures that may wish to share your bounty, be they slugs, snails, rabbits, caterpillars or birds.

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Seed savers

Even though we are officially in autumn and sadly on the wrong (in my opinion) side of the equinox, a walk around the garden today with my camera reminded me there is still lots of wonderful things out there to admire.

Opium poppy seeds heads

Opium poppy seeds heads

It’s just wonderful how many different ways plants package seeds for the coming of spring.

Dandelion seed head

Dandelion seed head

The yellow petals of the sunflower may be gone but who is to say those seeds don’t look just as interesting as the flower and I know they will certainly be attracting some birds in the near future.

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds

It also acts as a reminder to us gardeners that it is a good time to save some seed for next year. This week I have been drying some of those miniature pepper seeds and some courgette seeds (okay this was a well overgrown courgette / marrow). It’s a simple process. Just scoop out the seeds, removing any of the vegetable flesh and leave to dry on a window sill. Then store in labelled envelopes in a cool place ready for planting in the spring. This year I have had great crops of both parsnips and little gem squashes from seed I save last year. I find it very rewarding.

Courgette seeds drying

Courgette seeds drying

 

Last of the butterflies

Today was a fabulous autumn day. It started with a cool misty morning, followed by clear blue skies. So it was an ideal day to do a butterfly and bee monitoring transect (For more information check out my earlier blog – https://murtaghsmeadow.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/bees-butterflies/). I have been very bad the last few weeks and haven’t managed to complete one – though it is hard getting the right conditions (must be 17 degrees Celsius or at least full sun). The bee transects are walked once a month but the butterfly transects should be completed once a week. What amazed me today was the number of speckled wood butterflies still around. In the end I counted 31. They are looking slightly battered but no less beautiful.

Speckled wood butterfly

Speckled wood butterfly

I also recorded a couple of green veined whites and after I had finished the transect I spotted a red admiral. There was plenty of buzzing in the hedgerows but it was mostly hoverflies, with only the odd bee about (Common carder). The majority of the hedgerow flowers have gone-over with the exception of ivy which is just coming into it’s own and the odd knapweed flower. I gathered some of its seeds to spread in the meadow. The colours now are coming from the fruits and leaves.

Hedgerow autumn colours

Hedgerow autumn colours

Elderberry

Elderberry

 

Pepper and tomatoes

In the greenhouse, plants have benefited from our mild September. Despite going in late (we were still finishing the greenhouse) the miniature peppers are now a wonder red and the kids love them just as they are.

Minature red pepper

Minature red pepper

The tomatoes are looking healthy. They are the best tomatoes I have every grown, even if they are still green. I can see lots of jars of green tomato chutney in my future. They are just beginning to go red so we may be lucky if the weather remains mild. Next year, I will have no excuses and will hopefully get things in on time.

Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

 

 

Oak Galls

I found these oak galls growing on a small oak tree that is part of a hedgerow we planted a couple of years ago. It may look like something you could eat – one species is known as ‘oak apple’, but it is in fact the larva stage of a gall wasp.

Oak gall

Oak gall

Our native oaks are hosts plants to up to 30 different species of gall wasps. Depending on the type of gall wasp, the female inserts eggs into either a vegetative bub, a flower bud, an acorn or even the root of the tree. When it hatches the grubs secrete a chemical that results in this abnormal growth, know as a gall. It is this that encloses the larva of the wasp. The gall does not harm the tree.

Oak Gall

Oak Gall

I think these ones are Oak Marble galls (Andricus kollari), also known as oat nut, but am open to correction.

 

Birds, seeds and berries

Here in Ireland we’re having a lovely start to autumn, with warm sunshine and those foggy, cool mornings full of cobwebs.

Spider's web

Spider’s web

The birch tree outside my office window is laden with seeds and is proving very popular with the birds. In the space of 30 minutes,  I saw a bullfinch, chaffinch, greenfinch, sisken, bluetit and goldcrest feeding on it.

Something, and I suspect it is a blackbird, has found the autumn olives (Elaeagnus umbellata). While it is a species that can be invasive in parts of America, it is little know here in Ireland. It is indigenous to eastern Asia. The berries are a wonderful colour and can get sweet. Ours still have a tartness to them,  though the birds obviously don’t mind! The flowers, which appear in late spring, are a lovely dusty, lemon yellow. The red berries are spotted with tiny flakes of sliver.

Autumn olive berries

Autumn olive berries

Autumn olive - Flower

Autumn olive – Flowering last May

Sea buckthorn

As well as the larger fruits, the smaller ones are ripening too. We harvested a few of the beautifully orange berries of the sea buckthorn today. The berries are exceptional high in Vitamin C. They are also said to be have potent antioxidant properties. They have a sharp, citrus flavour. We just mashed the berries with a fork and added some hot water, to create a pleasant soothing drink.

Sea buckthorn

Sea buckthorn, Askola cultivar

For Sea buckthorn to fruit you need male and female plants for pollination. We planted ours this spring in the new area of the garden from bare-rooted stock from fruitandnut.ie. The plants seem to be establishing well, though only a couple have fruit this year.