Category Archives: in the garden

Water, water, everywhere

Water, water, everywhere
Nor any drop to drink.

Most of you will know the little Coleridge quote above, and it’s actually quite true.  Only 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh water (i.e. isn’t saline), and most of the world’s fresh water is trapped in ice.  Only 0.007% of the world’s water is actually accessible for our use.  If that figure doesn’t scare you, it should, because water security will likely be one of the main reasons for war in coming decades.  Communities in equatorial regions are going to suffer severe droughts as a result of climate change and heavy land use, and this leads to migration, poverty, famine, etc. all of which contribute to civil and international wars.

The real reason for this post is that I came across this infographic about water use in the UK, and I wanted to share it with you.  Have a read, because it’s absolutely fascinating.  Then have a think about how you can reduce your own water use.  I’m a big fan of mulching and water butts to reduce garden water use.

Saving-Water-in-the-Garden-Are-you-doing-your-bit

Rhubarb, potatoes, beans, and tomatoes

If I may point you to my last blog post, have a look at how poorly the rhubarb looked: http://planetmillie.com/2014/07/rhubarb-and-compost/

Take a look at it today, less than a week later:

Rhubarb July 2014

Isn’t the change dramatic!  My new system has made a huge difference!  All the leaves above are brand new, so the old yellowing leaves have been removed.

Green tomatoes July 2014

I haven’t shown you my tomatoes so far this year because they’re not ripening, but there’s finally a hint of redness coming through, so here they are!  This year I’m doing big tomatoes rather than cherry tomatoes.  I don’t know if I will do again as the branches are very heavy with fruit.  The cherry tomato plants cope better, in my opinion.

Broad beans July 2014

Broad beans!  They’re pretty much ready for harvesting, but we pick them the day we eat them so these will get picked on Wednesday!

Potatoes July 2014

These are the first potatoes harvested in 2014 (I know some people have been eating theirs for weeks, but we planted ours late!).  I ate some for tea last night (boiled) and they were lovely!  There’s also a cucumber in there.  They’re growing well!

Pigeon feather

Archie has been playing with this pigeon feather in the garden all week.  But I’m a mean Mummy so she won’t be playing any more because I’ve put it in the composter!

Spanish slugI misidentified this when I was in the garden and rescued it, not realising it was a Spanish slug and therefore an invasive pest in this country.  It’s too late now as this slug and its child got moved to the safety of the compost, but if I find any more they’ll have to be salted as they’re not welcome here.

And that was my weekend!  I had no internet for 21 hours thanks to a major fault in my area, but I had a cold on Friday and Saturday and so mostly slept anyway.  Sunday was taken up with pottering, reading and gardening.

Happy Monday!

Rhubarb and compost

The rhubarb on the railway line has not been growing well for a couple of years now.  If you ask anyone about rhubarb, they will tell you about what a weed it is: once planted you can never get the thing to stop spreading!  I now have living proof that this doesn’t always happen, although I too have always believed this fact!

I think my rhubarb is in decline because the cat keeps sitting on it (breaking stems), slugs keep eating the leaves and it’s living in a rubbish area.  As such, to solve problems one and two I have rigged up a new system to protect the rhubarb.

Rhubarb patch June 2014

As you can see in the before and after pics, I’ve put a string and bamboo structure around the rhubarb.  It lifts the leaves off the ground (and away from slugs), and makes it harder for the cat to get on it.  Hopefully that will help!

Whilst I was there, I also weeded a bit and laid those last few slabs that have needed moving for months (years, probably).  I also had a look at my compost, and I have these photos for you:

Snail in compost

Every time I find a snail in the garden I chuck him in the composter.  We’ve had a problem with slugs and snails in the garden since 2012 when we grew Brussels sprouts (which got completely destroyed by pests!).

In my composter I have some pink paper at the moment, and the snails have been eating it.  As a result, their poo is pink!  I mentioned this on Twitter, and then got photographic evidence for you!

Pink snail poo

I’m not sure how healthy this is for them, but the paper needed recycling!

Flies and things

My photos have been a bit lacklustre recently.  I haven’t been out much which doesn’t help.  There are horse flies EVERYWHERE – has anyone else noticed this?  It’s not worth going into the woods and fields for photos, just to get savaged by horrible flies.  Plus, their bites last longer than bee stings (I can say this with authority!).  It’s a bad year for plant and tree pests, because last winter we had no snow and so the weather didn’t kill off all the bugs and insects that usually die in the cold.  I assume the same rule applies to the horse flies.  I hope we have a month of snow next Christmas!

Here are a few pictures I have taken in the last week or so.

Kneel before me, human!

Archie sitting on the patio table, which she isn’t allowed to do!

Dunnock on birdfeeder

A dunnock on the bird feeder. There haven’t been many birds on the bird feeder lately. I’ve slowed down a bit with food as I have an infection in my bird population and am trying to reduce the risk of spread. I don’t want food lingering on the feeders as I’m cleaning them frequently, so there is less out than usual.

Male meadow brown butterfly

This is a male meadow brown butterfly. There should be more butterfly photos from me later in the month as the butterfly count is in July and I have a secret spot where I know there are loads!

Damselfly in meadow

A blue damselfly. There are quite a few different blue damselflies, so I have no idea what this is!

Xanthoria lichen

I bought a new lichen guide, FINALLY! Identifying lichens is hard, so at the moment I’m just narrowing down my IDs to genus. This is a Xanthoria member lichen.

So there are my photos from the last week or so.  I hope you’re all well!

(In unrelated news, I have a new contact form so feel free to use it!  I was getting too much spam.  I also have a new comment system for the same reason, so feel free to use that too!)

Archie and the lavender

When Archie is bored or grumpy, she turns into a little vandal. If she is inside, this usually means pulling up the carpets and generally being naughty. If she is outside, this usually manifests itself as flower pulling. She will stand next to a flower that’s in bloom and pull the flower heads off one at a time with her teeth. She won’t eat them: they get pulled off and dropped on the floor. When you go in the garden sometimes there’s a little heap of flower heads where Archie has been naughty and damaged the plant.  Here are some photos of her de-heading the lavender last weekend.  Her face is funny.

Archie pulling lavender

Early morning sun

My garden faces to the east, and there is a giant conifer at the end of it.  Although I refer to this as my tree, it’s actually on the railway embankment so I have no control over its management (I like it, but accept that one day Network Rail may get the urge to chop it down.  There’s no reasoning with Network Rail!).  This means that in the early morning most of the garden is in shadow, and often covered in dew.

I like having a stroll around the garden in this early morning light to see what is going on: which plants are growing, which look like they’re struggling.  I also check the bird feeders and make sure the cat hasn’t dug anything up during the night.

Morning sun

Shaded potatoes

The potatoes look lovely in the dappled early morning light.

Cucumber flower

This photo is unrelated, but I thought you’d like to see what a cucumber flower looks like.  I assume some of you won’t have seen one before.  Underneath the flower, you can also see two baby cucumbers starting to grow.  They grow behind the flower head, which withers and eventually falls off.  You can see the withered tuffs at the ends of the baby cucumbers.

Buzzing and bees

Last week I stung by a bee.  On the tip of my finger.  Something landed on my neck when I was in the garden, and I brushed it off.  Unfortunately it was a bee and it panicked and stung me.  I’m going to preface this story by saying that I have been stung by bees before.  For one ill-advised moment in my childhood, my Father thought that keeping bees would be a good idea.  Stinging ensued, and the bees got taken away.  Anyway, in the UK our bees do not hurt much.  I’m not going to lie, it’s going to feel like you whacked whichever appendage is stung really hard with a hammer.  But when thousands of people die every year after being attacked by Africanised killerbees, and there’s a hornet out there that can dissolve human flesh (Giant Japanese hornet), we should think ourselves lucky in the UK.

No, the problem lay not with the sting, but with its location.  Your finger doesn’t really have anywhere to go when it swells.  The skin gets tight and feels like it might crack; your joints stiffen and the slightest movement can cause the itchy achey pain of swollen tissue.  Yep, for four glorious days my finger was basically a fat, stiff sausage (minds, people!).  Today, five days later, I’m finally able to start bending the finger and using it for typing, as long as I don’t touch the part where the sting is (that bit is still tingly).

The day before I was stung, I’d photographed a bee to share on here.  At the time I was feeling all compassionate towards bees (this feeling has gone for now!).  Bees are in decline worldwide, and I like to do my bit by supporting bee charities, planting wildflowers, etc.  Apparently the bee had not heard of the Aesop fable about the beekeeper and the bees:

A thief got into a beekeeper’s property when its owner was away and stole the honeycombs. When the owner came back and saw that the beehives were empty, he stood there puzzling over what had happened. The bees then came back from their pastures and when they found the beekeeper there, they attacked him fiercely with their stings. The beekeeper said to the bees, ‘You wretched creatures! You let the man who stole your honeycombs get away with impunity while you direct your rage at me, the very person who takes care of you!’

Bee on wildflower 1

Bee on wildflower 2

Baby blue tits and other photos

The birds are all flying the nest now, and we had a baby blue tit in the garden last week.  They’re so cute!

Baby blue tit in cherry tree

Baby blue tit on garden ornament

I also found this dunnock photo on my camera, and I don’t know if I ever shared it on here.

Dunnock in birdfeeder

Some of the flowers in the garden are looking beautiful at the moment.  I especially love Alliums.

Allium flower head

Red and cream rose

Finally, I found this weathered little snail shell hiding in one of my flower pots amongst the moss and soil, and I had to photograph it.  The photo isn’t staged, it was just lying like this.

Weathered shell in soil

Have a lovely day.

Lettuce and garlic

We’ve had a problem with our allotment, and as a result we may not be able to go much any more.  As most of you probably know, we share our allotment with friends.  Because of schedules, we’re usually not at the allotment at the same time, and we just pop down when we have time and the inclination.

Our allotment is council-owned, and the council in all their wisdom has decided to install an electronic gate.  They have issued one key fob per plot for access.  As such, we no longer have a key to the site because we’re now having to share, which limits our access.  I’m very annoyed with the decision.  Some of the old men at our allotment site have an obsession with “youths” loitering on site and trespassing (N.B I have never seen teenagers on site except those who are gardening with parents!).  I suspect the council have installed the electronic gate to stop the complaints about “illegal access”.  However, the plan will backfire because the old men always need something to complain about, and now that access has been restricted for lots of people like us, the plots will get more weeds than usual and the old men will start complaining about that (they’ve done it before).  SO, that is the little gardening drama in my life!

The lettuce seeds have finally germinated in our pots, on the third or fourth try.  I think the birds were helping themselves.  The rain pushed all the seeds to one side of the main pot though, as only one side has germinated!

Lettuce seedlings

A couple of our garlics have bolted, so I’ve pulled them up and started drying them.  They smell lovely, but it’s not obvious if they’re fully developed (it doesn’t look like it).  The rest will stay in the ground until later in the year.

Bolted garlic bulbs

We got our first cucumber of the year on Sunday, and it was delicious!

First cucumber June 2014

The beans have flowered, but I didn’t think to get a photo of the black and white flowers for you until after they’d gone past their best, so I can’t share that with you.  Likewise with the potatoes.  Everything else is just plodding along!