Monthly Archives: February 2017

Garden in late February

Things are definitely greening up.  But unlike previous months February has been wet so it’s practically impossible to do anything outside. Even in the polytunnel and greenhouse I have been slow enough getting things going. I only planted the potatoes in the polytunnel last week. I have gone for ‘Charlotte’ as they did well for me again last year.

I’ve planted salad crops and the first of these are beginning to germinate.  Over wintered broad beans got some kind of dieback a few weeks ago so I have had to start afresh. So no early broadbeans this year!

The comfrey is coming on well both inside and outside and perennials are starting to show new growth too. I collected wild foxglove seed last autumn and these have germinated well. I overwintered them in the greenhouse and have put them outside to harden off. I did the same with Ragged Robin seed and have already planted some of these plug plants into the meadow.

The daffodils have been battered a bit by storm Doris and the continuing wet and windy weather, but they are doing their best. Jemima ii is sitting on eggs.  I must say I am impressed with her persistent as she decided to make her nest outside and has endured all sorts of weather including the storm! I had always thought domestic ducks were not good sitters but she is certainly proving me wrong, at least for now. But I am not counting my ducks before they hatch!

 

 

 

 

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Course about our Irish Pollinators

I am delighted to say I will be helping to run a second pollinator workshop in Castlebar, Co Mayo on the 10th March 2017. Thank you to all those who attended our fully booked workshop a couple of weeks ago. This free workshop (funded by the Heritage Council through Mayo County Council, Heritage Office) is ideal for community groups, graveyard committees, Tidy town groups and anyone interested in pollinators. Please book your place as detailed below.

This is an indoor workshop only and will focus on introducing Irish pollinators and the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan with emphasis on community actions. We will look at how simple actions can bring positive results for our local pollinator populations.

 

The Rhythm of the Frog Chorus

There is a rhythmic sound coming from the garden pond. A kind of deep-throated, grunting croak. Yes, the frogs are back. In fact, the pond is pretty much heaving with them. Last year we counted 43. Yesterday my husband counted 63! I think that was the peak. It’s great to have them back though. A sure sign that spring is really here.

Frogs return

Frogs return

In Ireland, we only have one species of frog, the Common Frog (Rana temporaria). There is only one species of toad too.  It is called the Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita), and it only occurs in the south. Our third Irish amphibian, is the Smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris). We sometimes see them in our garden and in the pond too.

It’s a good idea to encourage amphibians into your garden. They will eat lots of unwanted slugs. Having a pond is a great way to encourage them, but also think about leaving a few undisturbed areas with long vegetation and a log pile, as amphibians actually spend most of their time out of water.

For some good advice on creating a garden pond check out the Sussex Wildlife Trust Pond page.

 

 

Against the Odds

I took this photo last September. At the time, this newly emerged queen buff tailed bumblebee was building up her fat stores, before hibernating for the winter. In the next couple of weeks, against the odds of all an Irish winter can throw at them, queen bumbles will start emerging from their winter hibernation. When they emerge, it is vital that they find sources of pollen and nectar to restore what they have lost over the winter and to allow them to start building a new nest and laying eggs. In this way, they start the whole bumblebee life cycle all over again.

Buff tailed bumblebee

Buff tailed bumblebee

What can you do to help? Ensure a plentiful supply of nectar and pollen rich plants in your garden. Good early plants include crocuses, snowdrops, willows (female – ie with catkins), and fruit tree blossoms. If you have a lawn allow dandelions to flower before cutting.

Start thinking about what you can plant for the summer. Most herbs are great for bees. Many traditional cottage garden type flowers are also good like delphiniums, bellflowers, lupnis, foxgloves and aquilegia. Annuals like nasturtiums, snapdragon and poppies are all worth growing too.