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Posts tagged 'scarecrows'

Halloween gardening horrors!

29 October 2014

Halloween, a good time to bring the gardening year to an end Halloween, a good time to bring the gardening year to an end

Is it a British thing or an American import?  That’s the first big question about Halloween: The second question is "what’s it got to do with gardeners" beyond growing those enormous pumpkins? 

To answer the first question, the Christian festival of All Saints Eve or All Hallows Eve is thought to have absorbed the original Celtic festival of Samhain.  This was a celebration of the end of summer, the end of harvest time, and a transition to a different season.  It’s the crossing of this threshold between the light and warmth of summer, and the darkness and cold of winter, which the Celts felt left the last night of the year (31st October) neither in this year nor the next, but floating betwixt and between, present in the spirit world. So, Halloween begins as more a British tradition than an American one. 

What if anything does this mean for gardeners?  Well, the marking of change between one year and the next is a great prompt to avoid future gardening horrors!  At Genus we use Halloween as a time to get the garden ready for winter before the worst of the weather arrives. We avoid the potential horrors of pests and disease by finishing the last of the harvesting, clearing and then cleaning out the greenhouse. We avoid the horror of poor soils by getting the leaf mould bins sorted, ready to collect leaves for mould compostingMost importantly, we get out the gardening notebook and reflect on what worked this year, and what can be learnt from the gardening year, and therefore what can be and planned for next.  This avoids the horror of serious over-spending on those tempting offers and plants we’ll notice when flicking through seed and plant catalogues over winter. 

And finally, Halloween gardening  means considering an alternative decorative use for a Scarecrow too!   

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Birds a gardener’s friend – unless it’s a partridge in the kitchen!

23 April 2014

A great use of old gardening clothes
A great use of old gardening clothes!

It was such a beautiful gardening weekend.  The Genus garden is now really coming into life.  After all the planting, weeding, hoeing, feeding and mulching it's sure to look good.  Whilst we have been at it, the birds have been a particular pleasure.  The robin has been busy following us around picking over the turned soil.

This year we decided to keep the bird feeder up a bit later than usual (we normally put it away at the end of March) because it’s been attracting so many visitors and giving us so much pleasure.  The different bird species have really different personalities. The nuthatches are noisy and bossy, the woodpeckers nervous and shy, and the great tits down right argumentative.  It’s great too to know that many of these birds will go on to help us out during the gardening year.

The tits and nuthatches will be picking off caterpillars and other insects from trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.  Many of our favourite garden birds won’t breed without a supply of natural food.  When we take the feeder down in a few days, the birds will be looking for high protein soft and easily digestible food as they feed themselves and their broods. Blue tits and great tits in particular will be keeping down aphids as they make tasty food for chicks and fledglingsAlthough they tend to have one big clutch (all their eggs in one basket as it were) if it's a really good year they may have more than one brood and help out with insect pest control right through to the end of summer.  It's amazing just how much they get through. The BTO estimates that just one baby blue tit needs 100 caterpillars. Occasional starling visitors will be busy eating up the leather jackets, and we are very privileged to have green woodpeckers close by picking out ants in the orchard.

There are some downsides and disadvantages to having so many feathered visitors.  I left the backdoor open when I was out weeding and when I went back into the house for lunch, it was obvious the house had been invaded ….. little calling cards everywhere.  Can you imagine …. a couple of partridges had been casing the joint for titbits and were hiding out in my kitchen!!  I also caught them pecking off the shots of some of my favourite herbaceous plants including the peony.  Wood pigeons are the bane of my life, and it’s a never ending fight with them in the veg patch.  We really don’t know how best to keep them away. Of course we could use our old gardening clothes to make a  scarecrow but experience suggests that the fear factor doesn’t last long, and you need crowds of scarecrows to protect the entire garden!  The other annoyance are the blackbirds messing up the borders as they flip over leaves, stones and soil, and their habit of stirring up the pond and balding the marginal plants as they take their daily baths.

Never mind.  On balance it's great to give the birds a home they do more good than harm.

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